The Simcoe Seniors Centre has weighed in on Norfolk County’s choice of Ireland Road as the preferred location for a new recreation complex.
In a letter to Norfolk council on Nov. 15, the seniors executive expressed “great disappointment, extreme frustration, absolute amazement and heart-felt disgust toward the county council and the recreation facilities advisory board.”
At an executive meeting last week, the Seniors Centre affirmed its preference for a new centre in downtown Simcoe. The proposed location near the intersection of Ireland Road and Decou Road is on the eastern outskirts of town in a rural area that is largely undeveloped.
“It is obvious to us that the needs of the Simcoe Seniors’ Centre have been ignored with this decision by council,” president Linda Cuminsky and vice president Wayne Blazey say in their letter.
“And why? Well, it seems there is a demeaning and condescending attitude amongst some of council that the current generation of elderly citizens is as decrepit as our current building and that the new complex — with its new, smaller seniors’ space — will better serve the next generation of more active and fitness-conscious seniors.”
This statement refers to comments by Waterford Coun. Kim Huffman when asked about the county’s preferred location Oct. 19.
Huffman said the county is aware of the senior centre’s preference, but added the county is preparing for a future where seniors are more active and fitness-conscious than they have been in the past. Huffman knows of seniors who drive to locations outside the county to use facilities Norfolk doesn’t have.
“The individuals speaking were speaking for the current generation of users,” Huffman said. “We’re looking down the road to the next generation. We have a very active group of seniors coming in.”
After learning of Huffman’s position, Blazey said he was glad she lost as the Liberal candidate in Haldimand-Norfolk in the Oct. 22 federal election.
“I didn’t think she was really with it when it comes to seniors,” he said. “The upcoming generation of seniors will have the same ailments and struggles that the current generation has.”
Location and accessibility are key to the seniors executive because many of their 500-plus members walk to the current centre at the intersection of Water Street and Pond Street. The proposed location lies three kilometres to the southeast and involves a walk up steep hills on Victoria Street and Decou Road.
In its letter to the county, the seniors executive says members who no longer drive will incur taxi fees to get to the new location. Others will simply stop attending.
“We feel a move to the rural site at Ireland and Decou is an unconscionable betrayal that will ultimately lower our membership base,” Cuminsky and Blazey say. “Regrettably, that will mean isolation and loneliness for many elderly citizens of Norfolk County.”
The seniors executive is also disappointed because it has been assured in recent years that a new centre will have more space.
The floor area of the current centre is 17,300 square feet. The seniors’ space in the proposed complex is listed at 15,000 square feet. The executive says it needs a minimum of 20,000 square feet to accommodate its current needs and future growth.
As alternatives, the seniors executive says Norfolk should consider buying the administration building it leases at the corner of Robinson Street and Queen Street and relocate the seniors to a space on the ground floor.
The executive also suggests a bid for the warehouse property between the Robinson Street building and Talbot Gardens and redeveloping that property as a recreation complex with a seniors component.
“We are not simply condemning the Ireland and Decou decision,” the executive says in its letter. “We are presenting constructive alternatives.”
The county normally includes correspondence such as this in an upcoming agenda or in the council’s weekly information package, both of which are available to the public.