Note: This story has been published with permission from the people involved. Names have been changed to protect their privacy.
In 1999, Bob and Mary moved to the Calder area. They were new to the neighbourhood and after a year of trying to find a place where they could both socialize and enjoy recreational activities, they were still unsuccessful in making this connection. Feeling increasingly lonely and isolated, they decided to try attending (formerly Calder Seniors).
Bob, who just turned 95, and Mary, who is 91, reflected on how their lives might have turned out if they had not found the Centre. Immediately upon entering the Centre they felt welcomed, and soon strong social bonds were formed. The Centre had many activities to offer that they both enjoyed. In 2000, a group of 18 musicians came together to "jam" on Wednesdays in the Centre's lounge. With their love of music and dancing, Bob and Mary alone danced among the tables. Soon the lounge could not accommodate the large audience of spectators. The jam session moved down to the hall area. Bob reports that at first he and Mary danced solo while the audience looked on. Through encouragement and asking others to dance with them, the dance floor was soon full. Word spread quickly throughout the City that North West Seniors had the best Jam Session and dance every Wednesday afternoon. At this time, Bob and Mary were asked to act as host and hostess of the Jam Session. They welcomed guests and they even served coffee and refreshments at intermission.
During the last 15 years, Bob and Mary have only missed about 4 days of volunteering. They are of great value to our Centre as who greet guests and ensure that they take part and feel welcome. They also mentor others of the benefits and happiness that volunteering brings. Bob reports that some of the dancers come from as far away as St. Paul and Vegreville. Every week they drive their friend Martha who is 103 to and from the Centre to dance.
When asked how the Centre has impacted their lives, Bob and Mary stated that it has kept them young. As well as coordinating the Wednesday Jam Session, that has grown to often accommodate up to 110 dancers and 20 musicians, they also attend 3 to 4 other programs during the week. Bob says that North West meets their needs. When he had an unexplainable rash for over a year Bob worked with the outreach worker. Together, by thinking outside the box, they found a cure for what doctors could not. When Mary became ill, Bob came to the Centre for comfort and support. The staff came together to offer their assistance and support in any way they could. The outreach worker even took a ride with Bob to see Mary when she was unsure if she should call an ambulance when she was ill.
Bob and Mary say that North West is their family. They feel supported and loved by both the members and the staff. Now Lifetime members Bob and Mary are very enthusiastic in their belief that North West Seniors is the friendliest seniors centre in the city. When asked the secret to staying young Bob replied: "volunteering and staying active, remain positive - love and enjoy life!"