North Shore News
September 22, 2013
Taped and glued to the pages of a big green scrapbook, brown and brittle clippings from the North Shore’s newspapers of the day – the Lions Gate Times and The Citizen – chronicle a journey that began back in 1968.
A group of citizens came together back then, committed to building a drop-in centre with recreational facilities and programs to meet the interests of community members ages 50 and over. For years, in church halls and in private homes, seniors had been meeting to socialize, share information, learn and practise crafts. Some people believed the community’s senior citizens deserved better. Inspired by Silver Threads Activity Centre in Victoria, and led by the formidable Laura McWilliams, they set out to establish a local centre for seniors.
Approximately 170 citizens joined the Silver Harbour Manor Society, including North Vancouver Councillor Stella Jo Dean and her husband, Roland. Stella Jo and provincial minister without portfolio Grace McCarthy helped secure funding for the project. Rolly Dean co-ordinated a one-day drive to drum up community support. On September 21, 1970, 1334 canvassers, organized into 86 zones in 15 areas, visited 23,000 homes. When Silver Harbour Manor opened three years later, on September 22, 1973, 700 seniors signed up in the first week.
Shirley Lytle was there. As RCMP officers, resplendent in red serge, presided as the honour guard during the opening ceremony, their wives, Shirley among them, conducted tours of the new centre.
The next time Shirley came through the doors of Silver Harbour, it was the summer of 1996. She and her fellow lawn bowlers joined so they could enjoy the centre’s excellent lunches after a strenuous morning on the bowling green.
“My father told me, ‘When you retire, find something that you enjoy doing and volunteer. He should know, he lived to be 100,” says Shirley. “For many people, a seniors centre is a place where old people are waiting out the last stages of life. In fact, people embark on new learning experiences here with the bonus of more mature seniors to help along the way. If I had known then what I know now, I would have joined Silver Harbour earlier.”
Shirley made up for lost time. She’s been a student (10 years of tole painting) and a teacher (computer skills and slideshow presentations). She has served on the centre’s board, as president from 2003 to 2010, retiring this year after three years as past-president. Shirley is an original member of the centre’s digital storytelling program, which sees members create and produce short films from story all the way to screen.
Shirley exemplifies the spirit of Silver Harbour. She participates and she pitches in, mentoring new members and turning her hand to what needs to be done. One day last week, the power washer used to spiff up the newly painted centre had to be returned to the North Vancouver Lawn Bowling Club. Shirley and executive director Annwen Loverin lugged the equipment across to the clubhouse. Earlier that day, which happened to be Shirley’s 82nd birthday, she helped fellow digital storytellers with their projects, sat for the photograph for this story and retrieved the Silver Harbour scrapbook from its home in the basement file room.
This year, September 22 has been proclaimed Silver Harbour Seniors’ Activity Centre Day by the City and District of North Vancouver and by the provincial government. (The centre got its new name in 2010.) Voted Best Seniors’ Service 2013 by North Shore News readers, the centre has logged a record 159,000 visits to more than 70 programs and services.
“People are active and they are keen to learn,” says Loverin. “They come for the programs and stay to volunteer, becoming our most valuable, and appreciated, asset. Independent individuals come together at Silver Harbour, building community and rewriting the story of aging.”
Although Silver Harbour’s official celebrations, a dinner-dance on September 21 and tea on September 24, are sold out, a slide show and a digital film (both with contributions from Shirley Lytle) are running continuously and the centre is offering free presentations as well as those famous lunches.
To learn more about Silver Harbour, call 604-980-2474 or visit silverharbourcentre.ca