I am a card-carrying member of the Squamish Senior Centre and proud of it. If this seems a strange opening statement, please bear with me.
The DOS recently hired a consulting firm to try to fathom the future of the parks and recreation facilities and to poll the users as to their wishes. The senior centre was lumped in with this for whatever reason.
One of the proposals that came up in the master plan was that as the name “senior” carries negative connotations for some of the responders, staff is to be tasked with finding a kinder, gentler cognomen.
The meetings we have had with the membership have shown no great support for this move. So where did the demand come from? Most “seniors” are happy with senior discounts, the seniors advantage on home and income tax have resulted in no Idle No More-style uprisings, a senior vice president probably doesn’t feel shame or rejection as a result of his title. At age 65 the federal government started calling me an “Old Age Pensioner,” but I still cash the cheques.
So where did the suggestion come from? A fellow senior did some digging and was told the proposal came from the consultant and staff. Why would this be? Is it possible that there is a movement afoot to convert the facility to a use for which it was not intended? How about a name that is really cool, colourful and uplifting: “Squamish Community Centre”? There’s a name that threatens nobody except seniors and would lend legitimacy to the latest rec centre pamphlet that offers Senior Centre programs to anybody over the age of 18.
Why would DOS pay tens of thousands of dollars to a consultant to bring forth recommendations that originate with staff?
It is said the senior centre has not performed as expected. “What were the expectations,” we ask? “We don’t have that information,” they reply. The centre was built in a location that does not lend itself easily to such an operation. The location and building type were chosen by the DOS because of monetary considerations. The original plans were a disaster and it was not until a group of seniors spent hundreds of hours working with a design consultant that the present centre emerged. Everything from the placement of the support pillars to the replacement of the “condo” kitchen was done as a result of recommendations of the “charrette.”
The parking was always an issue; we increased it as best we could. Only at busy times does it now become a problem. If, however, staff are successful in converting to “community centre,” the parking situation will become a major stumbling block.
If the reason for recommending a name change is really because some people find the word “senior” threatening or humiliating, I would suggest that rather than changing all things senior, try therapy.
If the real reason is something far more sinister, then in the words of the consultant, let’s “run it up the flagpole and see who salutes,” or better yet, “throw it out on the porch and see if the cat licks it up.”
We at the seniors centre have been blessed in large part with excellent staff, doing the best job they are allowed to do. The so called “master plan” has left me with a suspicious mindset and a bad taste in my mouth.
All seniors should be vigilant during this process. It’s your centre. Hang on to it.