Seniors-centric space a priority for District of Squamish

The District wishes to clarify questions and misperceptions raised surrounding the provision of seniors-centric space in Squamish, and the proposal to move this space to the new Westwinds seniors apartment building.

“I am disheartened by some of the comments we have seen on social media regarding this decision currently in front of Council,” says District of Squamish Mayor Karen Elliott. “Council and staff have great respect for every senior in our community and we also recognize that there is a diversity of perspectives within our seniors population. We are working hard to provide programming and space to meet their needs, while trying to balance the fiscal and capacity realities we face. I ask the community to learn more about the opportunity and why it is being discussed, and envision how this could be a really positive move overall. We are committed to working with seniors to make this space feel their own and meet their needs long term.”

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Q & A

  • Is the District taking away seniors programming or a seniors-centric space at The 55 Activity Centre?

    The District is proposing to lease 6,000 square feet of space in the new Westwinds seniors apartment building for a seniors wellness hub. This is a 232-unit housing development being built by the Squamish Senior Citizens Home Society. This would move the seniors hub from The 55 Activity Centre to the new building, however The 55 would continue to be available for seniors programming and events as needed. This would effectively enable seniors programming to take place at three facilities: the Westwinds seniors hub (programmed approximately between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. by the District Monday to Friday), The 55 and Brennan Park.

     

  • How does the size of the space compare?

    The sizes of the two spaces are similar. The Westwinds space is 6,000 square feet. The programmable space at The 55 is also about 6,000 square feet. There is an additional 4,000 square feet for offices and storage available at The 55.

     

  • Why is the District considering this move?

    Despite a revitalization project in 2017 and subsequent best efforts to match programming to demand, The 55 is operating at about 19% capacity, whereas Brennan Park Recreation Centre cannot accommodate the demand for programs, resulting in persistent waitlists. The 55 Activity Centre has an approximate net operating cost of $432,000, and an 81% vacancy rate. By adopting a more varied program offering at The 55, which can be achieved by running programs for a wider variety of age groups (including seniors), the facility can be optimized to its full capacity/potential.

    This move would enable the District to maintain the critical amenity of seniors dedicated space, enhance program offerings for the downtown community at The 55, relieve some of the capacity pressure on other recreation facilities such as Brennan Park Recreation Centre, and achieve greater fiscal responsibility.

    This move also recognizes that there are a variety of perspectives and needs among the senior population. The 55 has not met the needs of all seniors, and so diversifying in this way to offer a variety of programming around the community gives seniors a choice, while also protecting dedicated space.

     

  • What happens at The 55 in the interim of the proposed Westwinds seniors hub being completed?

    Until the Westwinds seniors hub is ready, The 55 model would remain as is which sees the space dedicated to seniors during the day and then adult (19+) programming in the evening.

    Youth programming (youth 12-18 and emerging adults 19-24) will also temporarily be held there* until the new Youth Foundry Centre is built near the high school. Youth programming is expected to take place two evenings per week at The 55, and may expand to a weekend day or evening depending on availability. Youth programming is currently dispersed across the community until the Foundry centre opens in 2022.

    *The 55 has not yet reopened to any groups following its closure due to the COVID-19 response.

     

  • Will The 55 still offer seniors programming?

    Yes, and so will Brennan Park. Adding the new Westwinds seniors hub would add to the seniors opportunities for programming, while preserving a space of their own. There are some programs and events that will continue to make sense to hold at The 55, including large social events and those that require use of the commercial kitchen, and so this will continue to be an option for seniors.

     

  • Will The 55 operate as a Youth Hub?

    No. A new Youth Hub is being built as part of the Buckley Avenue Affordable Housing building beside Howe Sound Secondary School, planned to open in 2022. Until that time, youth programming is operating on a dispersed model in the community.

    Programs that previously happened at the youth centre were moved to entirely online right after its closure (mid-March) and up until June 2020. Starting in late June youth programs began running outdoors in parks and open-air spaces where they could safely be managed with COVID protocols. 

    Once The 55 reopens* (after its shutdown due to COVID-19), it is expected that youth programs will temporarily run out of The 55 during two evenings per week (including one evening when The 55 was previously closed). 

    *The 55 has not yet reopened to any groups following its closure due to the COVID-19 response.

     

  • What about the fundraising and work seniors contributed to The 55? How can this be preserved and protected?

    We absolutely acknowledge the valuable contribution the Squamish Seniors Centre Society has made to The 55. When the building was opened in 2009, the ideal was that it would be a vibrant, well-utilized centre. The reality, despite best efforts, is that the utilization of the building is too low in relation to the costs associated to run the building, and in the context of the overall demand for recreation programming space across the community.

    The District will do everything we can to support Squamish seniors in making this new space their own. Any items that were fundraised for and exist at The 55 could either come to the new hub, or remain at The 55 for the seniors programming that will continue to take place there.

     

     

  • Is there an opportunity for seniors to help define the space at the Westwinds?

    Yes! We want to engage the seniors of Squamish to create a space and programming areas that will meet their needs.

     

  • What kind of programming can the Westwinds hub offer?

    Dedicated fitness and rehabilitation space, and multi-use space for programs, events, arts and socializing are all planned to be accommodated at the Westwinds hub.

     

  • What happens if the District chooses not to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding for the Westwind space?

    The District believes this would be a significant missed opportunity if we do not secure this valuable space in a building that is purpose-built for the needs of seniors. We see this as a win for everyone involved and are committed to working towards this outcome to ensure Squamish seniors ultimately feel that way too.

     

  • Why were seniors not involved in this decision-making process?

    In the context of this lease agreement for the Westwinds hub, this was an operational decision that was driven by significant fiscal restraints and capacity issues, and involved legal lease-related considerations and negotiations that are required to be discussed confidentially.

    There is now an opportunity for engagement on defining the specifics of the space and programming opportunities for Westwinds, The 55 and Brennan Park, to provide seniors a broad choice of program options.  

     

  • Where is the Westwinds located?

    The Westwinds is located at 38275 Third Avenue between Bailey Street and Pemberton Avenue, downtown Squamish, approximately 150 metres away from The 55.

     

  • What are next steps?

    Ratification of the motion to secure the space is on the agenda for the October 6 Special Business Meeting of Council. While construction is underway, there is an opportunity for Squamish seniors to decide the look and feel of the Seniors Hub and its programming. Working with the Squamish Senior Citizens Housing Society, the District will engage a diverse group of seniors to provide this input.

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Comments

  • Giselle Oct 5, 2020, 10:09 AM (15 days ago)

    You have 6000 square feet at the 55 and 6000 square feet at the new place... Why not put the youth and Brennan park programs in the new space. Problem solved. Then seniors can keep the space they lobbied and fundraised for. I'm not a senior yet, give me a couple of decades, but I'm on their side. It's important to have a space of ones own, if the 55 needs to be busier to justify costs, work with them on that. I believe in you, DOS! You can do it!

  • W. ( Bill ) Berg Oct 4, 2020, 11:38 PM (16 days ago)

    No matter how You word it, You are breaking the commitments of previous Councils, made in writing, to the Seniors that the Senior Center is their HOME.

    By doing that, how do You expect us, to take Your proposals serious.
    Have You even taken the time to read the previous commitments?

    Are You aware how the Rec. Department has frustrated the efforts of the Seniors to make the Center a success?

    And now You are believing their Stats and words that they know how to run a Senior Center?
    Give us a break. We have tried for Years to work with the Department but they were rigid. Their Goal, in the last several Years, has been to have the Center fail as a Senior Center.
    And in that they have so far succeeded.
    But we are not dead yet, we struggled to long to give up on our HOME.

  • Zbigniew Jan Stachura Oct 4, 2020, 6:42 PM (16 days ago)

    I am very disappointed with latest Council decision to boot out seniors from the Center.
    Did the able body when reviewing utilization of the Center took time to find out how many hours the seniors spent at the facility reading the newspaper, exchanging the books, reading the books, making the puzzles, discussing the art and exchanging the ideas of gardening, playing pool..... There is an ample examples of utilizing Center by seniors, other then registered programs. Breakfast after Men in Motion exercise - when cafeteria was operational is one of several examples of sit down discussions on various topics over the meal. I am pretty sure this type of activities and informal meeting didn’t get registered under “ Utilization “ .
    One more time, for me it is very disappointing, since if decision makers took some time to explore other options, get some input from seniors we wouldn’t be in the situation we are in.
    I hope this is still not final...... come up with some out of the box ideas....

  • Herbert Vesely Oct 4, 2020, 3:33 PM (16 days ago)

    Respectfully I disagree that this had to be entirely discussed in confidentiality before coming to the Advisory Board on Sep 9. You just had to say to us “We want to establish a Seniors Hub away from the 55” and you would have heard from us all you needed to hear. This does not have be kept in camera! How you proceeded instead, suggests to us that staff were not aware or purposefully ignored our 2015 collaboration agreement which requires consultation with the “advisory committee”. As the Supreme Court had held in 2004: “consultation is meaningless if accommodation is excluded from the outset.”

  • Tom Bruusgaard Oct 4, 2020, 1:49 PM (16 days ago)

    As one of the Founding Members of the TANTALUS SENIOR’S CENTRE SOCIETY and present 10,000 sqft
    Facility, I cannot accept DOS position now proposed / supported by Council.

    That space is ours ...20 plus years of endless lobbying, fundraising and hard work resulted in Solterra creating 10,000 square feet of space for a Seniors Activity Centre and more than $300,000 from a DoS Seniors Building Reserve fund and another $80.000 or so from Branch 70 Seniors , The Tantalus Seniors and those Seniors still involved today for a Seniors Centre. I QUESTIONS THE LEGALITY OF BOOTING US OUT.! What about the next SENIOR generation?
    I AM ABSOLUTELY LIVID...MAKES ME WANT TO CRY. PROUD OF IT BUT IT IS GETTING MORE DIFFICULT BY THE DAY.

  • Leone Braby Oct 3, 2020, 12:16 PM (17 days ago)

    A Senior Wellness HUB ...What exactly is that? Space for tai chi? now and then? Pamphlets giving advice? a shared gym? a room? two rooms? We seniors need our PLACE..
    where we can gather for company and conversation and activities, not just exercise sessions which have limited enrolment and long waiting lists.Your fiscal responsibilities seem skewed toward the younger community! More and more young families are moving here and accommodations are necessary yes! but not at the expense of the many Seniors who helped make this town what it is today.
    You should be ashamed the way Seniors are sidelined here in Squamish!.. compared to many other communities and cities, that have vibrant well funded Senior Centres.
    The Centre here was under- utilized because the activities were not engaging or non existent...there were no District funds.There is no cafe ..no lunch..not even a snack bar. Folks like to get together over a coffee and converse..play cards. Evidence...all planned social functions were fully booked, holiday parties, bbqs etc. All bus trips were fully booked with wait lists.We like to gather in our own Place...not shared space very now and then between youngsters activities. Is the” Hub”( new buzzword) going to be a walk thru, shared space ...or a separated sanctuary for Seniors ? And why is it called a Wellness Hub. Details are in the name?Why would I be attracted to a place called
    Wellness Hub? unless I needed medical advice?



    • Patricia Vesely Oct 5, 2020, 2:22 PM (15 days ago)

      Leone good one...Wellness Hub hahahahahah! could be a spa...free massages yea!

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