The next 50 years

I was asked the other day, what is Kerby Centre going to do differently in our next 50 years of operation? To answer that I would have to look far down the road, but I can assure you that in our 50th year of operation, we will reach out to and connect with more older adults in Alberta than at any time in our history.

On March 28, 1995, Bill Dickson — who was the MLA for Calgary-Buffalo at the time — made a report to the Alberta Legislature that Kerby Centre served over half the seniors living in Calgary. A few months later Dickson presented a report from the Kerby Centre Board to the legislature.

This report stated that Kerby Centre had over 5,000 members and annually served 20,000 seniors in total through our various services. 1995 appears to be the high point in our reach and relevance to older adults in Calgary.

Between 1995 to the decade before COVID-19, our membership declined from 5,000 members to around 3,000 members. This was somewhat unexpected as our senior population in Calgary is growing.

In the 90s, you had to be 65 years of age to become a member at Kerby. And during the decade before COVID-19, we allowed older adults to become members when they turned 50 years of age.

Today there are many more 50+ residents of Calgary than there was 65+ residents in the nineties — again, this didn’t make a lot of sense.

During COVID-19, our membership dropped even further — it didn’t make a lot of sense to buy a membership to a Centre that was locked down. However, during this time our team established a variety of outreach programs. We weren’t able to serve people in this building, so we started going to their homes: both virtually and in person. We met a lot of new older adults during COVID-19 who have become members now that the Centre has reopened.

A little over two years ago we also started operating Meals on Wheels and the Veiner Centre in Medicine Hat. At the time of writing this article, Veiner Centre has over 1,400 members and Kerby Centre has over 3,100 members.

Our membership in the two cities is over 4,500 members — not as many as during our high point in the 90s, but the total membership is growing every week.

Within a year we will have more members than we have had during our 50-year history. Those of you who are regular readers of the Kerby News know we have re-branded under the umbrella brand of “Unison, for Generations 50+”

We did this because not only do we offer services at both Veiner Centre and Kerby Centre, but also in a growing number of other locations.

Additionally, we are continuing to build upon the online and streamed classes, and support groups that we established during COVID-19.

We have dedicated staff whose only focus is on building more of these online and streamed resources. We are currently developing online classes, events and groups that will be only available to members.

In last month’s Kerby News, you would have noticed that we are offering fresh new classes not only in our two centres but in other locations as well. Our Active Aging Teams in Medicine Hat and Calgary are focused on creating new courses, classes and events that are relevant, interesting, and supportive to older adults in Alberta.

You will see more and more of these offerings by reading this paper, following our social media, and checking out our website. We have spent three years building a staff group with expertise in outreach, program development and using technology to reach more seniors.

Starting in our 50th year of operation this team will significantly expand our reach and support to more older adults in Alberta than we have ever served before.