Irene Martin, 100; Phyllis Preston, 97; Peggy Tugwell, 93; and Elsie Popadynetz, 95, are all regular users of the Nelson seniors centre, which turns 60 this year. Photo: Greg Nesteroff

Nelson seniors group still thriving after 60 years

‘What makes me happy is to see them come in and enjoy themselves’

Second of two parts

Irene Martin and her husband moved to Nelson in 1976 from England on a holiday to visit their eldest son and his family. They liked it so much they decided to stay.

About a year later, she joined the local seniors centre. At her first meeting, the retiring president asked: “Would you like to help us?” Martin agreed.

Next question: “Would you like to be secretary?” Martin agreed again.

“She nearly dropped dead with surprise,” Martin laughs. “Because usually nobody wanted the job. After that I was president and general dogsbody.”

More than 40 years later, Martin is still playing cards at the seniors centre every week — at age 100. She is the eldest member of the organization, but not by much. On a recent visit by the Star, three nonagenarians were also avidly playing cribbage.

Elsie Popadynetz, 95, moved to Nelson more than 50 years ago. She joined the seniors centre “because I wanted to meet people.”

That’s still what keeps her coming back. “I like the company. When you’re a senior and your husband has passed away, you’re alone for part of the day, although you’ve got friends wherever you’re living. But still you like to come and see people every week and use your head.”

Phyllis Preston, 97, came to Nelson from Winnipeg in 1957, following her parents and sister. She comes each week “mostly to play cards. Just to get out of the house!”

Peggy Tugwell, 93, now lives in Nelson but was for many years a familiar face on the East Shore of Kootenay Lake and a columnist for the Mainstreet.

For president Bev Fischer, “what makes me happy is to see them come in and enjoy themselves. They’re so sharp and they’re fun. They get dressed up and come.”

Fischer, 69, joined the seniors group in 2006 after taking early retirement. She wanted to learn how to play bridge. “So I came and they taught me to play. Then I became kind of a gofer, doing odd jobs. Then I became vice-president, then president. I really enjoy it.”

As the group nears its 60th anniversary as Branch 51 of the Senior Citizens Association of BC, it has a thriving membership of about 170 and offers numerous weekly activities, from rug hooking to chess and tai chi to snooker. Their city-owned building at 717 Vernon Street is used year-round except Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.

Fischer says anyone 55 and up is welcome to join. You can try out activities for free three times. After that it’s $15 for a yearly membership plus a $1 user fee for each activity to supply the coffee fund.

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