By Charlie Senack
The Churchill Seniors Centre says they are almost back to normal operations after shutdowns and restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic and they are now seeing an increase in members.
The centre—which runs out of the old Nepean Town Hall located at 345 Richmond Rd.—offers a space for those 50 years and older to stay fit, make friends and get engaged in the community.
Anita Findlay, the seniors centre’s program coordinator, says they are ready to hit the ground running this fall.
“We have been having fun. It has been a hopping kind of place and it’s been really nice to watch it come to life again,” she said. “In August, our schedule remains quiet: a lot of our drop-ins are on break and our registered programs are already running for the eight weeks of summer.”
“But for the fall, we have everything from yoga, Pilates, line dancing, and so much more,” Findlay added. “We have a fitness centre which many of the guys who aren’t group-oriented love for the weight room.”
A more normal return to operations began in the spring when the Churchill Seniors Centre was able to run two eight-week programs. As weather warmed up and mandates lifted, Findlay says people felt more confident leaving the house again.
Painting classes have also been able to resume along with various dance classes. Findlay says Westboro has an artistic group of people who get excited about the arts. They have recently added ukulele and hand-drumming sessions to their lineup of activities.
“COVID really put a big damper on a lot of people, and it’s taken them a really long time to feel like they are allowed to come out and enjoy life again,” said Findlay. “We are seeing more and more of it which is really great, and we are seeing new people come out to the centre. We were so grateful to see that people felt the confidence in us and all the things we have been doing to keep them safe.”
While masks are now optional, fitness classes remain distanced to ensure only a select number of people are in the building at any given time.
Findlay says people who have just retired are discovering the centre for the first time, as well as people who feel as though they have lost out on mobility after staying in for two years.
“There has been a huge buy-in to strength and balance classes because people are realizing that when they are left to their own devices, you don’t push yourself to do much,” she said. “It’s human nature, but when the weather got nice and people started to do things, people realized they lost a sense of strength or balance. Maybe they wanted to start gardening and noticed they were out of breath.”
For others, the pandemic has shown people the importance of being around people. The Churchill Seniors Centre has seen an increase in new members who are recently retired.
“I think the most rewarding thing for me is the people who retired just before COVID or during the pandemic, and have been isolated and not engaged in our community or feel like they even know anybody,” said the centre’s program coordinator. “But now, they have come out and they are socializing; they are going for coffee together; they are connecting. My heart is happy to watch it; it is fun to see.”
On Saturday, Sept. 10, the Churchill Seniors Centre is hosting a kickoff party, as a signal that they are bouncing back after the pandemic. The event will take place outside the facility from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. and will feature a bake sale, book sale, curio sale and painting sale. Zumba and line-dance demonstrations will also be taking place.
Findlay says they always have a contingency plan in place in case the COVID-19 pandemic changes direction, but remains hopeful that lockdowns are a thing of the past. They plan to offer learning services again in the fall, and, hopefully soon, expand it into lunch-and-learn sessions.
Anyone 50 years of age or older can join the seniors centre, and Findlay is encouraging the older population to come and visit their facilities.
“We encourage people to pop in and come visit us; come see us. We have written handouts with our schedule and we will help you register in person,” she said. “We also will have our full contingency of programs which you can find in the adult section of the parks and recreation guide located on ottawa.ca”