By Heather Crawford
It’s early December, and that means it’s time for the much-anticipated Seniors’ Christmas outing in BCC Ottawa. This is one of the group’s largest events of the year. Around 30 participants, both seniors and “helpers” excitedly gather to carpool to a festive country lodge. Anyone over the age of 60 is invited and some who often can’t come because of work are able to participate this time.
Louise is one of those who comes regularly. She struggles to navigate stairs, but is grateful that there is no snow today, since it means she can get a ride down the hill instead. As she climbs into the gator, her excitement is obvious. “This is one of the most special gatherings for all of us, I think.” I ask her why, and she replies, “I think it’s the most festive time of year and that spirit is contagious. It’s delicious food, our classic gift exchange game and just being together and enjoying each other’s company.”
Many of the participants in this group have known each other for many years. And today there are some visitors – one even all the way from Winnipeg. As Carol sits and observes the group, she gathers inspiration for her local seniors’ group. “There are so many younger people here who volunteer their time and make it so good for the seniors,” she observes. “It really is a special and unique thing they have.”
Louise nods in agreement. “We are so lucky to have our helpers. They plan all the details for each outing – the activities, the food, travel, just everything. And we don’t notice any age gap when we are together. We have many different circumstances and challenges, but when we come together, we can just enjoy being together. It’s so strengthening to be with people who share the same interests and goals. Sometimes it is the one-on-one conversations that are so valuable, because it shows me that I am not alone.”
As she finishes, the group is gathering for their gift exchange. Each person has a chance to choose a gift from the center or to “steal” from someone else. The most anticipated gifts this year are the bottles of Baileys and whiskey, which I’m teasingly told are “for a friend.” Laughter can be heard ringing through the room as a few people keep it interesting. But in the end each person has something nice to take home with them – Lindor chocolates, a traditional Christmas cake, maple syrup or a winter throw.
After a satisfying meal, the participants once again gather to carpool back home. As they depart, they exchange final Christmas greetings. Everyone agrees this was the best way to kick off the holiday season: delicious food, a festive atmosphere and good friends.