Building a New Life at 91 Years Young

Several years ago, Mary Wong, then 91, moved from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan to Vancouver, British Columbia to be closer to her daughter, Janice. While Mary and Janice were looking forward to living in the same neighbourhood, they worried about how Mary would adapt to her new life here. It turns out they had absolutely nothing to worry about.

Shortly after Mary moved into an apartment down the street from the Kerrisdale Community Centre, Janice took her to check it out. And things really took off from there. Within weeks of her arrival, thanks to the seniors’ programming at the centre, Mary discovered new friends and a new community. At the seniors’ lunch (which is served Monday to Saturday), Mary was asked to sit at the “friendship table” – an unofficial, but important part of the welcoming culture at the community centre. Newcomers are welcomed to a long table that seats more than a dozen people, including those who have been there for a while (some for more than five decades!). Now, four years later, at 95, Mary continues to visit the community centre regularly to socialize with her close circle of friends, and she says that life is good – and busy!

Janice said that seeing her mother thrive in her new life is “a miracle.” Both Janice and Mary credit Kerrisdale Community Centre for being a huge part of this. Explained Janice: “My mom found a community here at the community centre. She has friends, a support group, and people who care about her. Having that is important to any person’s well-being, let alone a senior who has moved provinces at age 91. This is more than we could have hoped for.”

At 95, Mary continues to be independent. Using a walker, she heads to the community centre on her own several times a week. An avid reader, she can often be seen buying books at the centre’s book sale, sitting and chatting with friends and, of course, enjoying the subsidized seniors’ lunches. Said Janice: “The lunches here are an important service for this community. The portions are large, so many seniors who are on their own bring containers and take half home with them for dinner.” She added: “For some seniors, this might be their only interaction with other people in a day – and they might not eat a balanced meal like the one they get at the community centre if they are cooking for themselves. I think the hot lunch program helps seniors with independent living, enabling them to remain in their own homes.” And, explained Janice, if Mary doesn’t come to the centre for a day or two, her friends and staff call and ask where she is, making sure that she is okay. “That is a big help for me. My mom is quite independent, and knowing that people are watching out for her and checking in on her gives me peace of mind. I don’t worry about her as much because I know she has a great support system that cares for her. And it is all because we came to Kerrisdale Community Centre. I’d say that is a pretty good example of success.”

What Janice and Her Mother, Mary, Want the Park Board to Know

Janice: “It is important for the Park Board to listen and to understand what the specific needs are for each community centre – and not try to make us all the same. Each neighbourhood is unique and we want our community centre to reflect that. We want the Park Board to stop trying to take the ‘community’ out of the community centres.”

Mary: “The Park Board needs to know that this is a great community centre. The staff and volunteers have made this a very special place for so many of us. We don’t want the Park Board to spoil it. We want it to stay exactly as it is!”