Monday, 13 July 2009

Mary goes to a Party

I have just put another washer load of laundry out on the clothesline and am typing here with frequent glances out the window to make sure none of the heavy clouds rolling by has begun to spit rain on the sheets. With any luck I will get this load partly dry before the heavens open and yet more miserable cold water sheets down on my sheets and towels. This weather is Very Annoying. We had a local fair here that just about got rained out on Saturday and the blue sky of Sunday morning gave way to black cloud and rain by Sunday afternoon. Luckily it did not rain until after I got home from doing my stint in the ASK booth. Tomorrow ASK has planned a 'summer fun' day -- Bocce, croquet, swimming and a barbecue to follow. At last summer's picnic, a couple of hardy souls cooked during a thunderstorm and we did not lose the electrical power until after the coffee had perked. I was in ankle deep water pulling the croquet hoops. I hope we will be a bit luckier tomorrow.

ASK is one of the organizations I work in. It is the Active Seniors' Koalition (and I confess to being responsible for the 'K' spelling because I wanted a nice acronym). A few years ago the Township where I live funded a study to see what the needs of the community's seniors might be. We were lucky to hire Linda, a really excellent person to run the study, and after she had her data in she convened a meeting of people from all the service organizations, community halls and health providers in the local area and we put together a working group to organize and support the ideas that the study had generated. We got a bit of funding, hired a co-ordinator with boundless enthusiasm and got under way. She started us on line dancing and found a guy who really knew shuffle-board to set up temporary courts with tape in one of the halls. We charged a nominal sum to cover the hall rentals and we were away.

When we ran out of money Linda took over again on a volunteer basis and she and some others put together some funding proposals. We got a grant to make the shuffle-board courts permanent and the local Health authority found us some cash for co-ordination, advertising and equipment. Linda got paid again, we convened another meeting on how to spend the equipment dollars and the group decided they wanted WII games. We also printed information sheets and put up a booth at the rainy local fair to advertise our programs. During the time I was there, I was delighted by the response I got.

Unlike worthy and healthy 'exercises for seniors' mornings, the ASK programs are geared to be fun and flexible. We run them in the local community halls and we try to provide things that will get people out and moving.

Our part of eastern Ontario, about an hour+ drive from the big city, is a magnet for retirees, especially Armed Forces types who want good accommodation at a fairly low price. Many retirees build their own homes -- JG and I are an example. These people want to integrate into the community; they are prepared to give back by volunteering for all sorts of stuff, and many of them are pretty dynamic folk. There are also a lot of widows, some 'native', some 'not from here', who feel uncomfortable at dances and euchre parties without a partner. And a few widowers, ditto.

This is a dancing community; the older folks have danced all their lives and love it. Line dancing suits them perfectly and we now have enough participants to run it in two places at two levels. The shuffle-board suits people with reduced mobility and is a real social event with brown bag lunches and tournaments. The WII is just starting up, but I suspect it will also prove popular; people's faces lit up when I explained it and they said that their grandchildren loved it. A way for grandpa to score big points with the kids, I suspect, if he can talk about WII sports. And the picnic is just hilarious. Wrinklies in big floppy hats and embarrassing shorts whopping one another's balls into the rough and eating up a storm. I love it. This year I am the designated photographer and I will post the best of the results.

This association is not unique; you will find similar seniors' organizations all over the place. But we do several things that make it work. Given our widespread geography and the really lousy winter roads, taking the programs out to the community halls is really popular. And we are self-managing; the things we do are all things people have asked for. It complements the hall dinners and euchre parties already in force and we welcome drivers, kids and grandkids to anything we do. Also, no one has to sign up for anything. Arrive for an event, pay your three dollars and you're in, for one class or session or for more.

My big floppy hat and camera are all ready and I am now going to go and make salads for the pot luck. And I hope the sun beams down on us. Or, at least, we don't get lightning this time. My laundry just got rained on.


  1. I can't wait to see pics of the father doing WII ....

  2. We did linedancing for a few years when we first arrived here. It was fun. Maybe we'll get back to it at some point.

  3. sounds like you're doing a good job, have fun