Instructor Doug Pichette helps Evelyne Turner with her computer skills. Pritchett recently retired as the Penticton Seniors Computer Club instructor after 19 years. Mark Brett/Western News

Penticton Seniors’ Drop-In Centre celebrating 25 years

It started operating in 1994 out of a former restaurant

The Penticton Seniors’ Drop-in Centre Society was born 25 years ago when a group of like-minded people wanted to form a gathering place for senior citizens.

First vice-president for the society Mignonne Wood said surrounding communities had seniors’ centres — so why not here?

It started operating in 1994 out of a former restaurant they rented for $1,500 a month and was the temporary home to dances, dinners, cards and games.

Construction of the present location began in June 1999 and the grand opening was held Jan. 14, 2000. This year marks the centre’s 25 anniversary with a celebration to mark the special occasion on June 1.

“The importance of any senior centre is that it provides a safe place where seniors can gather and pursue a variety of activities,” said Wood. “Senior centres promote healthful aging and provide opportunities for physical activity and for social interactions which are critical for maintaining good mental well-being.

“Loneliness can result from social isolation and lack of social connections is a serious issue among Canadian seniors with about one-quarter of the population aged 65 and over now living alone (Canadian Census data),” Wood added.

According to several studies, loneliness can also escalate the onset of dementia or cognitive decline, be a contributing factor for cardiovascular disease and can shorten lifespan for seniors.

“It is better that seniors come to a welcoming senior centre where they can enjoy the company and companionship of others rather than visiting medical facilities to treat issues exacerbated by loneliness,” she said.

“It is important to remember that we serve adults aged 50-plus,” said Wood, noting membership is almost 1,000 and because of this, the programming is tailored to ensure they offer something for all age groups.

Among its groups are: pre-retirement (age 50 -64):

“Many of these seniors are still employed and can only participate in evening or weekend activities,” she said. “We have started a Thursday evening line dancing class that is very popular and a games afternoon on Sundays.”

Seniors (65 -79):

Wood said this is the most active group at the centre and members participate in a variety of recreational pursuits, activities and special events including line dancing, belly dancing, Tai Chi Chuan, yoga, chair yoga, medical Qi Gong, carpet bowling, sing-a-long, cribbage, bridge, scrabble, Mah Jong and regular dances including live music on Fridays and deejays on Sundays.

They also feature live-and-learn topics, computer classes, Tuesday lunches, monthly social dinners and language lesson, plus a variety of special events.

Elders (80-plus):

“This group (not all) participates in the more gentle activities such as cards and lunches and special events,” said Wood. “They definitely like daytime activities.”

Wood looks after gaming, publicity and advertising and communication. She also chairs the centre’s development committee, prepares its monthly newsletter and oversees its website.

She said the seniors coming up have different interests, different needs and wants and are looking for a greater variety of activities, in all aspects.

Wood noted that a seniors’ centre is a good place for someone to consider if they’re going through a change in their life such as loss of a spouse, living alone, being new to a community, reduced social networks, having no family or children, aging, transportation issues or poor health.

“Connecting with others who have common interests is a great way to stay connected, make new friends, find common those with common interests,” she said.

Another important aspect of continuing growth is to remain relevant, which means watching for trends and responding accordingly. The centre recently applied for a liquor license.

“I guess you could say applying for a permanent liquor license was a response to membership demand,” she said. “People coming to dinners and dances had indicated that they would like to be able to have a glass of wine with dinner and maybe a drink of beer at a dance. I don’t expect it will be very different than before except now people attending functions will have a choice.”

The centre is located at 2965 South Main St., Penticton. For information more call 250-493-2111 or visit www.pentictonseniors.org.

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