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The Vancouver Courier
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
By Sandra Thomas

Seniors' centre in southeast Vancouver a political football kicked to the side

Voters who sat through an all-candidates meeting last fall during the municipal election safely could have assumed the creation of a seniors' centre in southeast Vancouver was a done deal.

Even some defeated candidates promised to continue working on the issue, despite not winning a seat on council or park board. But according to seniors activist Lorna Gibbs, what was once a big civic election issue seems now to be out of the city's hands.

Seniors packed a meeting at the Killarney Community Centre prior to last year's civic election.
Seniors packed a meeting at the Killarney Community Centre prior to last year's civic election. Photo: Dan Toulgoet

"They all keep telling me they're still working on it," said Gibbs. "We went to see [Vision Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson] in March and he said it's on their priority list, but as far as I can see it's in the hands of the province now."

Another politician who's promised to take the lead on the issue is federal Liberal MP for Vancouver South Ujjal Dosanjh. Dosanjh is hosting a town hall meeting this Friday at the Killarney Community Centre where he promises to address seniors concerns, including the lack of a centre in that community. Dosanjh addressed the House of Commons Feb. 4 on behalf of the seniors of Vancouver South and Vancouver Southeast. In his address Dosanjh noted there are nine seniors' centres in the city, eight of which are located west of Main Street. Dosanjh is hosting several town hall meetings leading up to the provincial election May 12.

Gibbs said she also attached herself to B.C. Liberal Premier Gordon Campbell at a recent meeting and offered him a copy of the seniors' centre proposal.

"I stuck to him like a bird to a dog. I handed him a copy of our proposal-again, and he said 'I've got a copy,'" said Gibbs. "And I said, 'Here's one you can read.'" Noting that the most recent census showed there are more than 26,000 residents over the age of 65 living in the area, Gibbs argued a seniors' centre is vital to their well being. She said Vancouver's West Side seniors' centres, including in Kerrisdale and Kitsilano, have community kitchens where seniors can buy inexpensive nutritious meals.

"And I'm eating little frozen dinners and out of cans," said Gibbs. "I'm hungry all the time and it's not that I don't have any food, it's just that why bother cooking for one person." Gibbs compared aging to growing up.

"You don't know what's happening to you and your body's changing all the time," said Gibbs. "Seniors need peer support and counselling. We need to be challenged mentally and physically, not warehoused in a residential care home."

Keith Jacobson, president of the Killarney Community Centre Society, said to date a lot of empty promises have been made from politicians at every level of government, depending on which election is taking place. Last fall in B.C. there were municipal and federal elections, as well as a provincial byelection.

"They all say they recognize the need for a seniors centre and they all say they realize the area is underserved," said Jacobson. "But there's no money, there' nothing. No one's done anything."

The Courier could not reach Vision Vancouver Coun. Raymond Louie before its press deadline. In November 2007 Louie brought a motion forward to the council of the day asking that the seniors centre be fast-tracked. That motion was deferred twice and ended with no action.

The town hall meeting begins at 1 p.m. April 24 at the Killarney Community Centre, 6260 Killarney St.

© Vancouver Courier 2009

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Created: May 15, 2009
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