The Vancouver Courier
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
By Cheryl Rossi
Seniors lobby for southeast centre
Centre advocates note proposed city funding
for $13 million animal shelter
Southeast Vancouver is home to an estimated one-third of all the seniors in the city.
But while eight seniors centres in Vancouver are located west of Cambie Street, none are located in the southeast.
PHOTO: Dan Toulgoet
Tom Holmes, a director with the Killarney Community Centre Society, joined 140 seniors at a public forum Monday to push for a new seniors' centre.
That apparent disparity was enough to drive 140 seniors to a public forum Monday morning at the Killarney Community Centre to push the city for a seniors centre in their community.
"Seven years ago in the Province [newspaper], a senior official from city hall said there's no discrimination between east and west," said John Pawluk, president of Killarney Seniors. He complained the city was more keen to fund a new $31 million animal shelter than pay for a haven for older residents in its latest capital plan.
Pawluk's argument was echoed by Tom Holmes, a director with the Killarney Community Centre Society. "I don't know if they understand that dogs don't vote," said Holmes. "Seniors do."
The seniors crammed into the meeting heard research suggesting their corner of the city is home to nearly 25,000 seniors over the age of 65.
"I was shocked," said Jonathan Ross, principal of TDH Strategies, a consulting firm hired by the Killarney Community Centre Society to develop a proposal for a seniors' centre in Killarney. Using 2006 Canada Census data, he worked with the city's social planning department to compile the numbers. Ross believes the proportion of seniors in southeast Vancouver would have been even higher if he had included residents 55 and older. And the area expects to absorb more seniors with the development of East Fraserlands.
Lorna Gibbs, president of the Southeast Vancouver Seniors' Arts and Cultural Society, says seniors need a place to socialize and eat nutritious meals. Seniors who've moved to smaller homes need a place like a dining hall where they can entertain family, she said.
She argues seniors who sit at home alone often become depressed, leading to ill health and a drain on the public health system. Building a seniors' centre would be cheaper for governments, she said.
The community has sought a seniors' centre in the area since the mid-1990s. The city and parks board supported a seniors' centre at Killarney in 2001, but the provincial government changed and the city's money went elsewhere.
The city's 2009-2011 capital plan includes $13 million for a new dog shelter or a library in Strathcona, depending on which project is ready to go first.
Seniors groups hope if the city commits to building a centre, the provincial and federal governments will kick in money to help pay for it.
Vision Coun. Raymond Louie, who's running for a third term on council in the Nov. 15 municipal election and appeared at the Monday forum with two other civic candidates, blamed the NPA for stalling his proposal two years ago that the city consider funding a seniors' centre from fees paid by developers to the city.
In January 2007, the NPA-dominated council ordered staff to study how the city could establish a seniors' centre in southeast Vancouver and work with community groups.
The Southeast Vancouver Seniors' Arts and Cultural Society believes a seniors' centre should be built next to Killarney Community Centre to take advantage of the land, recreational facilities, programs and transportation. The parks board would cover the utilities, as it does for the Kerrisdale Seniors Centre, which operates as an annex of its local community centre.
An all candidates meeting for council hopefuls is scheduled for Oct. 27 at 7 p.m at Killarney Community Centre. Parks board hopefuls will have their turn Nov. 3 at 7 p.m.
© Vancouver Courier 2008