Beyond Recreation: The Transformative Role of Senior Centres
The vitality of older adults is often untapped and underestimated. As the story of Tom and Cecil Graysen illustrates, older adults not only benefit from but also significantly contribute to their communities, with senior centres being a particularly rich source of community and connection. One such association that stands out is the Mill Woods Seniors Association (MWSA), a beacon of community engagement, social connection, and personal growth.
Tom and Cecil Graysen, two active members of their community, passionately express the transformative role of centres like MWSA which allow older adults to connect with and contribute to their community. Cecil describes her perspective:
"I am a commodity, not a burden to society. I'm 75 years old, I know my way in this world, I have given back to my community, to people, you know, I have always been a volunteer."
Their words reflect a desire to be recognized for their individual worth and lifetime of experience, rather than being reduced to a stereotype of aging.
This sentiment is echoed in the MWSA, which is a champion of those beliefs. The MWSA strives to enhance the independence of older adults, allowing them to age in community as long as possible. By providing a myriad of programs and services that cater to their recreational and social needs, the MWSA ensures its members retain their independence and enjoy a vibrant life. With 75 percent of older adult health outcomes determined by non-medical factors such as physical and mental fitness and social connection associations like the MWSA have an outsized impact on older adult health. The impact is probably far greater than most people realize.
For Cecil, the MWSA is also a testament to the talent and generosity of seniors:
"The talent and generosity of these seniors, it's just uplifting, you know, so why can't a low-income person have access to these programs?"
Tom and Cecil see these organizations as essential, advocating for more inclusive and affordable services to ensure all older adults can participate and contribute their talents to the community.
But senior centres like the Mill Woods Seniors Association (MWSA) go beyond mere recreation and socialization. They serve as hubs for volunteerism and community engagement. Many older adults possess a wealth of knowledge, skills, and life experiences that can greatly benefit their communities. The MWSA recognizes this and actively encourages its members to volunteer and contribute their talents to various community initiatives. Whether it's mentoring younger generations, participating in local charitable events, or sharing their expertise in workshops and classes, senior centres provide a platform for older adults to make meaningful contributions and leave a lasting impact on society.
Fostering volunteerism also plays a crucial role in combating the issue of social isolation among older adults. Loneliness and social isolation can have detrimental effects on seniors' mental and physical well-being. By actively engaging in volunteer activities and being part of a supportive community, older adults can combat feelings of loneliness, find purpose, and foster connections with like-minded individuals.
Tom and Cecil know better than most the power of volunteerism to foster social connection. They both met when they were involved with the community-based seniors serving organization, Drive Happiness- Tom as a volunteer driver and Cecil as a client- and fell in love, marrying a few years later. Volunteerism and community engagement strengthens existing relationships, of all kinds among older adults and, in wonderful cases like Tom and Cecil’s, provides the spark for rich new relationships.
However, despite the value and impact of senior centres, Tom and Cecil share their concerns over the struggle for recognition and support. Cecil states, "everything else is here, yes. Education is important, health is important, infrastructure is important, you know, but there we are. That's our last little bit... and it's like we're groveling for everything." They emphasize the need for societies to see past stereotypes and recognize the value that older adults bring.
The story of Tom and Cecil Graysen and their engagement with the MWSA exemplifies why funding for senior centres is essential. These organizations not only enhance the lives of older adults but also enrich the entire community. Sustaining and expanding these services is not just a matter of respect for our older population, but a wise investment in our collective future.
So, let's take a page out of Tom and Cecil's book. Let's invest in and advocate for senior centres, because, in doing so, we are investing in a more inclusive, engaging, and compassionate society.