Nestled in among the trees on Arbutus Road, a heritage house turned local seniors’ centre is the place to be for seniors looking to try a new activity or socialize with friends.
Goward House, a non-profit society run mostly by volunteers, opened in 1991. Membership is open to people aged 50 and over, but five per cent of the memberships are open to those under 50.
“We’ve never come close to reaching our quota of five per cent,” said Elaine Leonard, Goward House administrator. “So it’s pretty well open to anybody.”
About 450 people are members, whose annual fees fund most of the operations at Goward House.
Activity fees, kitchen sales and fundraisers make up the rest of the funding streams along with a small grant from the District of Saanich, Leonard said.
“We would like more funding, but it allows us to have our independence and to do other things,” she said. “It’s a double-edged sword.”
While many groups at Goward House take breaks during the summer, Leonard said it gives them an opportunity to plan other events.
For example, staff is scheduling Steve Wallace driving sessions in the downstairs of Goward house when the space is free during the summer.
“I find that seniors really want to be proactive, number one, about their health, and about things that they see on the horizon that they need to know about, like where they are going to live, downsizing [and] driving,” Leonard said. “Even if they’re not quite at that age, they seem to be really interested in making sure they have all the information.”
A large fundraiser is coming on Sept. 18, when Goward house will be hosting a Victorian Vogue Fashion Show, which will include heritage fashions and high tea for $20.
“We’re being as authentic as we can to a high tea … even researching the menus,” Leonard said.
Tickets are currently being sold to reserve seats for the tea.
“More than bringing in money, our goal is always to bring people into Goward House that haven’t been here before,” she said.
Goward House serves as a gathering place for seniors, who can often experience isolation in the community.
“I think our greatest purpose is to just keep the seniors engaged in wanting to be active with other seniors,” Leonard said.
Hans Gelens, who has been coming for the past decade, expressed similar enthusiasm about the importance of Goward House.
“In my opinion, it’s the most beautiful seniors’ centre in Victoria,” Gelens said. “It’s always a pleasure to be here.”
Goward House is open Monday to Friday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Daily schedules of activities can be found at gowardhouse.com, or at Goward House, 2945 Arbutus Rd.