How many seniors does it take to fight off boredom, loneliness, and inactivity? 

Answer: As many as show up.

On a Tuesday before Christmas, I joined a group of seniors to spend an afternoon together. We gathered in the cozy lounge at Alberta Avenue Community Hall, with plenty of comfortable seating and a coffee maker at the ready. 

The focus that day was on learning to play pickleball. But first, a tasty lunch was waiting for us. What a treat! How wonderful it was to feel spoiled. The pandemic has cut so many lifelines. Kindness and generosity go a long way now.

As our small group tucked into fragrant tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches, perfect for a cold and snowy December day, we shared more than food. We shared life experiences, and our thoughts, hopes, and dreams for the new year.

Wayne Graham always wanted to play pickleball. Margaret Larsen is also learning at Tuesday’s seniors’ afternoon get-togethers. | Constance Brissenden

Last April, Alberta Avenue Community League surveyed seniors to create a program suited to their needs. The result, says Karen Mykietka, facility and office manager, was that the over 55 crowd wanted more connections. “They don’t have as much support as they would like,” Mykietka adds. A weekly seniors’ gathering was one solution.

Frances Bernard has lived in the area for over two years after moving into the family home. In her new home and with COVID-19 ongoing, her social circle shrank. She was also grieving the loss of her sister and uncle. Although busy renovating her home, Bernard felt a gap in her life. She yearned for social activities and new acquaintances.

Sitting around the lounge coffee table, Bernard shares her journey. “My brother told me about the community league,” she recalls while enjoying a plate of vegetables. “I was feeling the isolation and thought I’d try it out.” She is now a regular at many of the community league’s events, volunteering, mingling, and meeting new people of all ages.

Bill Storey, at 91 years old, has lived in Edmonton for the past 40 years. He plays the guitar and enjoys it. “Alberta Avenue bought some musical equipment when enough people said they wanted to play,” he shares. 

Lively conversation bounces around topics such as African safaris, barbecue tips, walking the West Coast Trail, and US President Joe Biden’s new dog. 

After lunch, Wayne Graham leads a group of eight into the gym. Graham started coming on Tuesdays to play pickleball. He’s a good teacher. 

If you’ve ever played table tennis, badminton, or tennis, then pickleball will be familiar. The paddle ball sport is a favorite of seniors everywhere, played with two or four players over a net.

“Pickleball first tweaked my interest [when] watching people play outdoors on Vancouver Island,” says Graham. “I’ve never been able to play it outdoors, but this gym is available.” 

The league bought four paddles and four bright orange polymer pickleballs. The seniors may not be highly competitive, but they do enjoy running back and forth, whacking the pickleball, and improving their hand-to-eye coordination. 

After a good volley, I was puffing a little, a sure sign that the exercise was having a good effect.

The Tuesday seniors’ gathering from 1-4 p.m. is open to all. A variety of activities are enjoyed. You are guaranteed good cheer and the warmth of good company. Proof of vaccination is required.