Since the Kerby Centre took over management and operation of Medicine Hat’s Veiner and Strathcona centres back in August, several changes have been implemented, but staff say the spirit of community support remains the same.
“I think one of the reasons the city was very interested in partnering with Kerby to run (Veiner and Strathcona Centres) was just the opportunity to make sure many more seniors got to access … and got to take advantage of some of the programs and supports we’re offering,” Kerby Centre CEO, Larry Mathieson, told the News.
“We serve members and users from 50 to 100 (years of age) and every one of those age cohorts has different interests … so we’re continually developing different courses and programs,” Mathieson said. “(Our team) is very innovative. We have a number of collaborations and partnerships where we’ll be working with other non-profits and NGOs to offer programs and courses and drop-ins for seniors … It will create a lot more activity in the centre.”
Veiner Centre director Cori Fischer was instrumental in creating new programming as well as restoring those which existed prior to the change of hands.
“We offer some programming that wasn’t offered by the city, just to kind of get a feel if it’s something people are interested in,” Fischer said.
Traditional activities like Bridge, bingo, quilting and more are slowly returning to the centre. Some of the new opportunities include beginner French courses, pet therapy, the Silver Song Group for singers of all proficiency, intergenerational mentoring with Big Brothers Big Sisters Medicine Hat and District, and the bread market in partnership with Medicine Hat’s Root Cellar, which aims to provide seniors facing barriers with fresh bread and produce.
Beyond programming, one of the most notable changes at the Veiner Centre is the decrease in membership fees.
“The rates are so much better. A year membership is $50 and half a year is $25. And if you wanted to use the gym with your year membership, it’s $200 per year or $100 for half a year. So the prices are a very big drawing point,” longtime Veiner Centre volunteer Dianne Schneider told the News.
A decrease in membership fees was one of the main goals for the Kerby Centre, Mathieson and Fischer explained, as they wanted the centre to be accessible to all seniors as a safe and welcoming community hub; something they feel is necessary after nearly two years of social isolation caused by the pandemic.
“Loneliness and isolation lead to all sorts of negative health outcomes, and over the last two years we really discovered how important that (social connection) was,” said Mathieson.
The number of centre members decreased significantly during the pandemic, but has started to rise since August. Mathieson and the Veiner Centre team aims to continue providing local seniors with programs and services, however no longer municipally funded, the centre now relies on donations from the community and sponsorships to support such initiatives.
Schneider is happy to be back at the centre and hopes it will stay open for good.
“This is a community and everyone wants to get back into the community,” she said. “It’s a place you can go and get feedback for all the things that pertain to our age group. It just the idea of the comfort and the safety and all the services it provides to help people … It’s very safe and very welcoming and I’ve already enjoyed that.”
KENDALL KING, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Medicine Hat News