Seniors’ Centres- Is it Time for a Change?

In the past many seniors retired by the age of 65 and they gladly accepted seniors’ centres as THE place to be for the Seniors’ “Lifestyle” Group.

Question- Do you think that the present seniors’ centres are still the ‘go to’ place for Seniors 50 Plus OR is there a new movement in place now spurred on by the dominating Boomer generation to create a different “Lifestyle” Group?  What is it?

Die from Doing Nothing

Jim and Olga McDonald in their book titled ‘Get Up And Go’ told a story about what they called ‘Die from Doing Nothing’.  Not too long ago, while attending a social event, Olga fell into conversation with a former acquaintance we’ll call Charlie.  when Olga told me the story of her unusual discussion with Charlie, I knew that I had to include it in this book, for it conveys an attitude that may be secretly shared by others.

When Charlie mentioned that he was now retired, Olga asked him what he was doing with all his spare time.  Charlie proudly responded by saying, “I do nothing.  I sleep until ten in the morning.  Once I have breakfast, shower, shave, get dressed, and do a few things, it’s time for lunch.”  He sipped his wine and continued on, “After lunch I go to the club and play cards with guys for the rest of the afternoon.  In the evening I watch television.” Olga listened in shocked silence as he supported his “do nothing” position with his next statement.

“Like I said, I do nothing and there’s nothing wrong with that.  When you read the paper, do you ever see a headline that says someone died from doing nothing?  Of course not, nobody dies from doing nothing!”

What an intriguing revelation.  Most people who make up the more than half of our inactive population offer excuses for their inactivity and make promises to change their ways in the near future.  Not Charlie.  He spoke of his “do nothing” lifestyle with the confidence of someone who had just found the secret to longevity.  I suspect that Charlie and his buddies at the club share similar views, and they may be typical of many more who live a sedentary lifestyle.

Sedentary lifestyles increase all causes of mortality, double the risk of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and obesity and substantially increase the risks of colon cancer, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, depression, and anxiety.

This is a sad situation and it is complicated by the fact that too many seniors just don’t want to speak up in order that we can find out what the TRUE feelings are about their in a seniors’ centre today.  One of the best people I know to get seniors to speak up and be heard is Wendy Fisher, the founder of a retirement website called 

There are 3 stories I would like to mention taken from that I think can shed more light on the different roles of seniors’ centres.

The first story is from Lynne of Port Coquitlam,B.C.  She begins by saying, the seniors’ centres near me are for people 50+.  There are three seniors’ centres near me. Two of them have more activities ‘inside & out’ to offer, but I chose this particular seniors’ centre because it was the only one to offer ‘volunteering’ with lonely home-bound seniors.  Volunteer programs offer three options: 1) weekly grocery shopping (done from a list provided by the senior, shopped by the volunteers, and delivered by the grocery store for a minimum charge; 2) weekly phone calls 9for reassurance: to relieve depression, loneliness and boredom); and 3) weekly visiting with a lonely home-bound senior.  I chose visiting (to have personal contact), and the weekly 2.5 hour visit with my blind and hard-of-hearing ‘very senior’ lady is the highlight of my week.  Because seniors in their homes are vulnerable, I underwent a background criminal check done by the R.C.M.P.; I attended several hours of training and instruction put on by the seniors’ centre; and i memorized a manuel of ‘what to do’.  Lynne said,”This is not like visiting your neighbour in a nursing home or hospital; this is serious business.”

At the seniors’ centre Lynne also joined Carpet bowling (men & Women) and snooker (all men).  Carpet bowling and snooker teams play against other seniors’ centres.

Although members can join at age 50, Lynne said most people whom I have met are in their 60’s to 90’s.  They are friendly folks who have activities and interests outside the seniors’ centre and being a member here is only part of their active retirement lifestyle.

The second story is told by 81 years old, Mikey from Port Colborne, Ontario.  Mikey said, I just joined a senior centrew a few months ago.  I play shuffleboard and darts.  Nobody is very serious so we have some fun.  They do have cribbage, euchre, line dancing, bingo, tai chi and water color painting.  They are serious with their card games so I stay away from them.  When I go there I only see about 20 people but altogether I think there are about 200.  it is only a small city I live in with 17,000 people.  they also have bus trips but they are about $80 for the day.  It’s too much for my pocket book.

Mikey goes on to say, the next city from me is larger and they had a larger senior centre that was very busy.  they asked the Government for a grant to expand a little.  The Government said they wouldn’t give them a grant but would make the building three times larger and call it a ‘Wellness Centre’ and everyone could go, NOT just seniors.

Mikey says, so that is what the Government did.  They spend millions on a big beautiful building.  The only thing wrong is that they took control and made all kinds of rules and regulations which was for everyone. It didn’t feel like a seniors’ centre anymore  and the seniors didn’t like it so a lot of them stopped going.  I went up there Mikey said to see if i would like to join.  The yearly fee was $40 and each thing you did was $2.50, more than twice what it was before.  That was another reason the seniors left.  Because of that I wouldn’t join either. There was a dozen people there that day that I was shown and 5 of them were city office staff twiddling ther thumbs.  It used to be a friendly, welcoming place where seniors could spend an afternoon with friends.  Not anymore.

They used to be greeted with the welcoming smiles of friends when they walked through the door of the seniors’ centre.  Now, the staff that work at the reception desk of the new Wellness Complex are too busy to offer the polite greetings volunteers nused to offer, seniors say.  But many of the nearly 200 people who attended a public meeting said they’d gladly trade amenities like the therapeutic pool for the centre they used to enjoy.

Finally, a brief story by Genna of Palm Springs, California.  Genna said, Well Joe, I’ve never joined in any of the seniors’ centre activities except for a poetry group that the centre was kind enough to let us meet there and we weren’t all seniors.  Then, once when leaving town I left off a box of baby houseplants for folks to help themselves to.  I’m always intending to check out the activities, but so far I have never had the time to do so.

Seniors’ centres can be many things for the utilization of Seniors 50 Plus.


Are there ANY sources anywhere that are presently planning to examine the role of seniors’ centre in this new era which includes the huge Boomer demographic that is retired or about to retire?

Currently, there is an important project led by the team of three University of Alberta (Edmonton, AB) researchers who have just begun a year-long study of the Province of Alberta, Canada seniors’ centres with the aid of $70,800 grant from the Provincial Government.

The team of three researchers led by Dr. Kyle Whitfield, Associate Professor in the Faculty of Extension, will be looking at the role that Alberta’s 400-plus centres currently play in the different seniors’ lives, the challenges they face and their future potential.

“Seniors’ centres in Alberta are essential to sustaining and growing a model of successful aging in the Province,” Whitfield said at a January 21/13 press conference where the grant for the project was announced.

“Because out aging population is growing, knowing more about the needs, key issues, challenges and opportunities for capacity building amongst seniors’ centres is a necessity,” said Dr. Kyle Whitfield.

Also, the Edmonton Senior magazine February/2013 edition mentions the seniors’s centres study that the U of A researchers will be working on in conjunction with the Alberta Association of Seniors’ Centres and the Seniors Association of Greater Edmonton (SAGE).

“Seniors’ centres play a vital role in the lives of seniors who live in communities throughout Alberta,” said Roger Laing, President of the AASC and Executive Director of SAGE.