From right: President Darlene McIsaac, Secretary Treasurer Wilbur Wostraydowski, and Vice President Evelyn Jones announced that Trail Branch 47 is closing down the Senior Centre at the end of 2020 as a result of COVID-19. (Jim Bailey photo)

Sombre farewell; Trail seniors branch closing doors after 63 years

The association will disband in December

Trail Seniors Branch 47 has kept residents socially engaged and entertained for more than 60 years, but will become another casualty of COVID-19 come the new year.

Branch 47 president Darlene McIsaac told the Times that as of Dec. 31, 2020, the seniors centre, which was formed in 1957, will be disbanding.

“We have no money coming in,” she said.

“We’re in a building, we’re in the school. The cooking school right now, all they’re allowed, is two hours Monday, I think it is, and two hours Wednesday with only seven students. And that’s getting stressful on them too.”

The seniors centre rents its space in the Greater Trail Community Centre from the RDKB (Regional District of Kootenay Boundary), which includes the dining hall, kitchen, and office area.

The non-profit seniors group in turn rents the kitchen facilities to Selkirk College for their popular Food Service Worker Program, which teaches Life Skills as well as Vocational Skills in the Hospitality Industry for developmentally challenged adults (Adult Special Education).

To support the program, the senior membership routinely bought lunches and hired the group to cater various events such as seasonal banquets. The centre was also a social hub for Trail seniors, offering bingo and Canasta, banquets, dances, card games, and hot meals throughout the year, as well as musical performances and presentations from healthcare providers and others.

Unfortunately, that all came to an end in March with the onset of the pandemic.

With no public gatherings, no meetings, and no members, keeping the centre going soon became untenable.

When asked ‘What seniors can do to stay engaged without a facility like the seniors centre?’ McIsaac replied, “I don’t know, because there’s no cards anymore, there’s no bingo, there’s no dances, there’s no banquets – everything is gone.”

Seniors have been the hardest hit during the pandemic.

They are the most vulnerable to COVID-19, and it forced many to live in isolation from family and friends further eroding their physical and mental health.

To compound the situation, the recent increase in cases adds to the growing fear that a second wave is upon us.

“We have so many people in their 80s and 90s that said, even if things opened in a year they said they wouldn’t go back,” McIsaac shared.

“It just makes it hard, and I haven’t been well, and I think the stress has taken its toll on me.”

The seniors centre owns most of the dining room and kitchen contents such as the tables, chairs, kitchen appliances, pots, pans, plates, and cutlery and generously agreed to donate those to the college and students in the food service program.

The branch has been an invaluable supporter of the community, recently donating $2,500 to those being cared for under the auspices of Trail Association for Community Living, and $2,500 each to the Trail United Church food bank, and Kate’s Kitchen.

Branch 47’s activities were vital to the social, physical, and mental health of Trail seniors, and now with its closure, there are few if any options available to seniors in the community.

“Trying to keep things going, there’s only three of us working (the executive) at it now, so it’s hard,” said McIsaac. “There are seniors I want to go and visit, and I just can’t.”

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