Fred Chelstad believes it’s important for seniors to have a feeling of community and the Sylvan Lake Alliance Church seniors’ group, which Fred and his wife, Vivian, help organize, aims to do just that.
While the group has been together for about four years, they’re just starting to get out together again after COVID.
“We had quite a few events we had to postpone during COVID,” said Fred, adding that since restrictions have been lifted, the group has gotten together several times since spring ¬– monthly breakfasts, a trip to Ellis Bird Farm, bowling, get togethers in the afternoons for coffee, conversation and games, a s’mores night, bocce ball, a wagon ride and bonfire at Double T Percheron near Markerville and the group has travelled to the RCMP dog training centre near Innisfail.
“All of these events are to help people feel connected,” said Fred. “We also have a seniors Facebook group and a seniors directory for contact information, to make it easier to get in touch with each other.”
When planning an event, Fred said his e-mail invitation goes out to over 150 people in the group, and they can choose to participate or not.
“Some activities are more physical than others and some seniors have physical limitations that prevent them from doing some things,” Fred explained. “I think it’s important for seniors to have a sense of belonging and that’s one of the reasons for the group, and to feel loved and appreciated.”
And there are more events in the works. Vivian said the group is hoping to host a chili cook-off in November, where someone will judge and then the group can enjoy chili and buns for lunch or supper.
“We’d also like to do a hymn sing,” she said. “In our church, we do more modern singing, but a lot of the seniors like some of the more traditional hymns. Last time we did the hymn sing, we had an ice cream social afterwards with the whole community. That was before COVID, but we’re hoping to bring it back because it was pretty popular.”
The group has also done photo contests in the past and they try to plan a fancier event for Christmastime.
“For a lot of our events, we try to plan it so our seniors would be able to invite their friends or neighbours to come out and enjoy it also,” said Fred. “We always have room for more. We’ve had a lot of new people join our group this year and we’re so grateful for their participation. It’s a great way to get to know new people.”
While the group likes to get out together and enjoy everyone’s company, Fred said the group is also there for members to lean on in times of need.
“We pray for each other,” he explained. “In times where people have been ill or bereaved, we’ve had group members bring flowers or cards. It’s nice to see the empathy people have for each other.”
Vivian added that there are members who help each other out with rides for appointments and that there’s “always someone willing to lend a hand.”
The Alliance Church offers a Sunday School program, a group for youth within the church and there’s a Season 3 group, which Fred explained is the age group just below the seniors group. However, at the time this group was organized, there wasn’t anything for the seniors at the church. There are now five couples that are involved in the leadership of the group.
“There’s something for everyone,” Fred said.