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Activities for seniors restarting after COVID-19 restrictions, groups face funding challenges

Golden Age Society and ElderActive are pressing on despite loss of revenue.
Seniors programming reopening after COVID-19 is working to recover after loss of revenue from lockdown. (Roman Carey/Pexels)

Some organizations that provide activities and a space to socialize for seniors in Whitehorse have been feeling the pinch as a result of the winter wave of COVID-19 and the reduced attendence and revenue that went with it.

Diane McPhee, the president of the Golden Age Society, said the organization offers opportunities for socializing and recreation for seniors. Their programs include tai chi, online dancing, bingo, crib and whist.

McPhee said they also draw revenue from renting their facilities out to other groups as well as fundraising luncheons. Both have had to be scaled back or halted due to either restrictions or concerns about physical distancing.

“It’s been quite difficult lately, with lockdowns and everything. We have to stop all those activities and that’s our only income,” McPhee said.

She said the Golden Age Society is far from the only senior-focused group in Whitehorse that is having trouble with a loss of revenue resulting from the COVID-19 restrictions on gatherings at the start of the year.

“Our seniors live alone and that’s their only socializing and some of them have disability issues,” McPhee said.

Activities were able to start up again in the second week of February with the gathering restrictions relaxed.

Although the in-person activities for the Golden Age Society have returned, McPhee said challenges due to a loss of revenue have been a challenge since the pandemic began. She says the society’s board has been seeing a big difference in the amount of money coming in.

“We’re managing. We’ve still got the doors open and welcoming people but its challenging with not receiving any money from the government,” McPhee said.

“We apply for grants when they’re available, and that has helped for the improvements to the building. We applied for a grant, in January, from the city. Hopefully, if it’s approved, it will cover electricity bills, stuff like that.”

McPhee added that support from government in the form of explaining new restrictions and how to put them into practice has been very helpful.

Alex Jegier, the executive director of ElderActive Recreation Association, said seniors still want the recreation but face extra challenges in shifting to an online or outdoor format the way other groups do.

As ElderActive does not have a venue of their own, he said the capacity and gathering restrictions made it difficult for them to book space. Less available programs or less attendance due to people’s concerns about contracting the virus have led to less revenue for ElderActive.

“While we try to subsidize as much as possible we still need to be sustainable as an organization,” Jegier said.

Jegier said despite the challenges faced at the start of the year, things are opening back up for ElderActive, including their joint program with the Canada Games Centre offering games including pickleball and shuffleboard. He said the return of those programs is an important social activity for the participants.

Contact Jim Elliot at

Jim Elliot

About the Author: Jim Elliot

I’m a B.C. transplant here in Whitehorse at The News telling stories about the Yukon's people, environment, and culture.
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