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The End of a Golden Age

The Golden Age Club of Calgary (GAC) officially closed this June after 64 years providing programs for low-income seniors. The announcement in the East Village, where the club operated since 1984, has been met with surprise and anger.
Emotions were high at protests in Calgary in May 2015.
Emotions were high at protests in Calgary in May 2015.

The Golden Age Club of Calgary (GAC) officially closed this June after 64 years providing programs for low-income seniors. The announcement in the East Village, where the club operated since 1984, has been met with surprise and anger. GAC and community members held a protest over the closure in May; they walked over to City Hall and collected 300 signatures on a petition to save the club. Their protests gained media coverage and spurred continual calls to the City and local social agencies to keep the club alive, but to no avail.

The situation is complicated and “very usual, to say the least,” says the GAC's lawyer Loran Halyn. He explains that the GAC owned twenty percent of the building they resided in, while the East Village Housing Association (EVHA) owned the remainder. When the EVHA decided on a $5 million exterior renovation, they held the GAC responsible for a quarter of that price tag. The GAC was struggling at the time, as funding from the City of Calgary was pulled in 2014. The EVHA decided to sue for the costs, but they themselves were placed in receivership by Price Waterhouse Cooper (PWC) in 2014.

Halyn says the GAC board felt that they had no choice and signed over their part of the ownership to the EVHA/PWC and walked away from the ownership of the building. “It was the practical decision,” he says. PWC as the receiver is not in a position to continue the suit. Halyn pointed out that while the Golden Age Club itself is closed, the GAC society itself legally still exists. For the GAC to continue, however, a new location plus funding must be secured. “At this time, there are talks going on, some efforts but no definitive plans,” says Halyn.

Local art programmer Wendy Lees says many people hope that the City of Calgary and other agencies in the area such as Carya (formerly Calgary Family Services), the Alex Seniors Health Centre and East Village Neighbourhood Association will work with the GAC to bring back seniors programs to the East Village including art classes, meditation, gentle fitness, entertainment and outings. In the interim, the City of Calgary is running “Seniors Social in the Square” outside in the East Villages' Fifth Street Square, throughout June and July.

Questions still remain over how the closure happened. East Village resident Dan O'Driscoll says the club has been “a complicated mess” for a long time. “Could they not have come up with better solutions earlier on to prevent this? I hope I'm wrong, but it almost seems that someone fostered conditions to exist to lead to this closure, out of neglect,” says O'Driscoll.