A special celebration by the Woolwich Seniors Association to mark the 90th birthday milestone of some of its members was perhaps extra special given that it was the first time in three years members could gather for such an event.
The dinner held Oct. 26 at the WMC seniors’ centre celebrated two people, Murray Aberle and Grace Walton, as well as all other members who reached their nineties in 2020 and 2021. In-person events had been on hold through the pandemic.
“We did come almost of course to a grinding halt during COVID, like everything else did. We did need a lot of help in COVID to keep strong because other than that, it’s been a very active senior centre ever since its inception,” said interim president Gail Eby.
Securing pandemic grant money allowed the association to keep going, she said,
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“The board continued to work very hard to keep our lights on when there were no activities. Between our membership fees and our participation fees, we count on those to help us pay our bills,” she said, noting the lack of programming meant revenues dropped to nothing.
For an annual fee of $25 and a small additional fee for certain events, the member-run organization provides daily activities such as snooker, shuffleboard, darts, a crocheting and knitting club and a genealogy program. They also provide dinners throughout the year, including during the holiday season, and day trips. The association has between 200-250 active members, including more than 20 that are over the age of 90.
The non-profit organization based at the WMC is a great way to support seniors in Woolwich, Eby said.
“If we don’t look after our seniors, they’re going to be sitting at home doing nothing and as I say, our mission statement is ‘stay active, be involved and feel connected’ and that’s exactly what we aim to do. Because there are a lot of lonely people who have maybe lost loved ones or don’t have family around and they really count on the association to have a social life,” she added.
It also helps seniors build connections with each other.
“We encourage everybody 55-plus to come join us. We have probably [aged] 55 people right up to over 100. Now, the older ones aren’t as active anymore, but they’re still totally respected.”
Eby saw the group’s work in action with a neighbour whose wife had passed away.
“He was going through a very hard time with her health and time when she went into the hospital…I said [to him] ‘why don’t you come out and join the groups because I know you like to play cards.’ Just to offer him a change, because that always can be awfully lonely if you have nothing to look forward to,” she said.
There is much to learn from the members, Eby added.
“They have so much to give. And they’re so easy to talk to. I just think they are a wonderful age group. They’ve got so much to share and they’re so open about sharing.”.
The association also provides activities in conjunction with the township such as chair yoga and pickleball. While there is no plan to expand or make big changes, they are always looking for new activities, Eby said.
“We just want to keep ourselves fresh.”