Renfrew-Collingwood: Seniors centre offers tea and a lifeline

On a recent Wednesday morning at the Renfrew-Collingwood Seniors’ Society centre (RCSS) Frank sits at what he calls the “men’s table” sipping tea and munching on a freshly made blueberry muffin.

He jokes good-naturedly to staff members when they come by to refill his cup. Frank, 73, said he has been coming to the centre for five years.

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“They are my second family,” he said.

RCSS has operated for 37 years and provides services for seniors in Renfrew-Collingwood where, according to Statistics Canada 2011 data, close to 20 per cent of residents are over 60 years old— making it an area with one of the highest concentrations of seniors in Vancouver.  

Donna Clarke, RCSS executive director, said the organization’s goal is to keep seniors in their homes for as long as possible by offering senior-directed programs which emphasize peer support while treating seniors as “contributing adults to the community,” she said.

Francis, 83, sits at the table next to Frank’s.  Around his neck hangs a colourful polished flat stone. Rocks and crystals are his specialty. Last month he brought in his large collection and put on a seminar about it. Francis said he started coming in April in order to get out of the house. The staff is “fantastic,” he said “it is a good relaxing place.”

The centre offers three programs during the week: the adult day program for seniors who require support because of health issues, a community day program for isolated seniors to socialize and learn new things and a caregiver program, which allows those caring for seniors to commiserate and learn new skills. On Saturdays there is an intergenerational lunch specifically for seniors and youth of Chinese descent.

Throughout the morning at RCSS nurse Carol Yi takes one client at a time into her office for a quick checkup. Clarke said when health problems are detected, anything from a foot injury to depression, caregivers or caseworkers are notified right away.  

After morning tea, most of the clients move to the recreation area for a half-hour exercise class, but client Elaine sits a while longer at her table. She has problems with her memory she said, but knows what she likes and what she doesn’t. Asked how she feels about coming to the centre she said, “It is my lifeline.”

To learn more about RCSS go to

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