Author Archives: Tracey Braun

#3 – Mid- to Low-Income Seniors – Friends of Bow Cliff

Reason 3: All funds donated to Bow Cliff Seniors are used within the organization for programs and services to help members who are mid- to low-income.

Think about how many times you, as an individual in Calgary, take out your wallet in an average day. There aren’t a lot of places that people can gather without paying for something, whether it’s a coffee, a dinner or an event. But many seniors in Calgary struggle to meet their basic needs; 26% of Calgary seniors receive the Guarenteed Income Suppliment to help them do just that.

Friends of Bow Cliff, Bow Cliff Seniors, Calgary Seniors

Bow Cliff Seniors exists to make sure that these seniors – and those who are struggling just above this line – have a place to gather without having to worry about how much is in their bank account that morning. For the most part, we rely on funding from governments (New Horizons for Seniors, Alberta Gaming and Family and Community Support Services of Calgary) to pay ongoing operational costs (including administrative and facility costs). We also look to sponsors and donors to help us grow our programs and meet the increasing needs of seniors.

$36 may not seem like a lot, but to our centre it could mean:Bow Cliff Seniors, Friends of Bow Cliff, Calgary Seniors

  • birthday lunch for six seniors
  • two hours of in-chair exercise instruction
  • one month of snow removal so a senior can stay in his home


Making a donation via Friends of Bow Cliff means we can continue offering great programs for seniors at a cost they can afford. Won’t you join us today?


#2 – Keeping Seniors Active – Friends of Bow Cliff

Reason 2: Bow Cliff Seniors assists seniors who might otherwise be isolated to stay active and socialize.Bow Cliff Seniors, Friends of Bow Cliff, Calgary Seniors

As the number of seniors increase in our society, governments are developing strategies and policies that will best address their needs. In Alberta, the government is committed to aging in place, which encourages the development of programs/services that support seniors to live independently as long as their health and circumstances allow.

Friends of Bow Cliff, Calgary Seniors, Bow Cliff SeniorsSeniors centres, like BCS, are an integral part of aging in place. As a community gathering place, BCS hosts activities that keep seniors engaged on an educational, recreational and/or social level. These include exercise classes, card games, and a weekly luncheon. We charge minamal fees for these activities to allow all seniors, regardless of income, to participate.

In 2011, we’ve added new programs like the Healthy Living Challege, run in conjunction with 11 other locations in the city, and increased our Food Services Program to add more weekly lunches, Themed Dinners and Musical Jams.

Friends of Bow Cliff, Calgary Seniors, Bow Cliff Seniors

Having the support of the Friends of Bow Cliff will help us develop more programs to reach isolated seniors in 2012.

Won’t you join us today?

Friends of Bow Cliff, Calgary Seniors, Bow Cliff Seniors

#1 A Place in the Community – Friends of Bow Cliff

Reason 1: Bow Cliff Seniors has been in the community for 36 years, providing a place for seniors to come for programs, services and activities.

1975: Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr were battling on the music charts, Jaws was making us think twice about going into the water, and James Clavell’s Shogun was just hitting the bookstores.

In Calgary, people were cheering for the Calgary Cowboys on the ice and the population was still under half a million. (453,812, to be exact.)  The community of Spruce Cliff was celebrating its 25th anniversary, and it was during this time that seniors of the area came together to discuss programs and services that would reflect their needs.

Friends of Bow Cliff, Bow Cliff Seniors, spruce cliff,

36 years later, Bow Cliff Seniors continues to provide programs and services for seniors in Spruce Cliff and beyond. Our activitities have evolved with the changing needs of seniors. BCS exercise classes, for example, are now augmented by the Healthy Living Challenge, which encourages people to take responsibility for their own healthy choices. The weekly luncheon started as a fundraiser, but is now supported by sponsorships like that recently provided by Exterran. The ShareCare Program, which provides lawn care and snow removal for seniors, now helps 80 seniors in 15 communities – and the need continues to grow.

Friends of Bow Cliff, Bow Cliff Seniors, spruce cliff, Calgary Seniors

United Way volunteers decorating before Lunch

Which is where you come in. We’re encouraging people to support the ongoing needs of seniors by becoming a Friend of Bow Cliff. $36 for 36 great years of service – it’s a bargain, really, and it means we can start 2012 on the right foot. Won’t you join us today?

Friends of Bow Cliff ~ Celebrating 36 Years!

36 years ago, several members of the Spruce Cliff Community came together to discuss options for programs/services for seniors in the area. On December 19, 1975, the Spruce Cliff Seniors came into being. (The name was changed to Bow Cliff Seniors in 1976.)

Bow Cliff Centre, Friends of Bow Cliff

Friends of Bow Cliff ~ Celebrating 36 Years

 Since that time, BCS has provided a community gathering place for seniors from all over Calgary. We hold exercise and art classes, host bridge, cribbage and bingo games, serve a weekly lunch and bring people together through our partnerships with groups like the Alberta Handicrafts Guild and Calgary Dollars.

We’ve also had our share of challenges (the 1989 fire) and successes (taking on the building lease) that have kept us going. Funding has been its own challenge, and so this year we’re asking people to step up. We’ll be spending the next few weeks sharing our top five reasons why you should donate now and become a Friend of Bow Cliff in 2012.


“Safety in Parking” – Vote Today!

Aviva Community Fund Bow Cliff Seniors is proud to be participating in the Aviva Community Fund competition again this year. Our project – “Safety in Parking” – builds on two years of fundraising  toward a new and improved parking lot, including:

  • south side sidewalks (so seniors don’t have to walk behind parked cars)
  • centre walkway (allowing safe access to all parked cars)
  • speed bumps and barriers at ends of the lot
  • signs (speed limit, handicapped parking and information)
  • landscaped planters
  • security cameras

How You Can Help

First, register for an account at (You can’t vote unless you register for an account.)

Then, starting Monday, October 3, 2011 (12pm ET), you can vote by clicking on the “VOTE” button at our Aviva Community Fund site (Bow Cliff Seniors “Safety in Parking” Project) or, if you’re on Facebook, you can vote at their page (

Once you start, please keep going! The first round lasts 15 days (October 3 to October 19) and each person registered can vote once a day. The top 90 ideas will make it into the semi-final round and the top 30 into the final round, and every vote counts!

And please, share this information with friends and friends! Post it on your Facebook wall, tweet about it, write a blog post or two, text your kids, share via intra-office email – whatever you can do to get the word out. The more people who hear about this project and vote, the more likely we’ll win the competition.

Let’s Think Bigger, or What’s Our Vision for Canada?

There’s been a lot in the media this week about the federal government’s decision to cut the number of family reunification visas that they will be issuing for parents/grandparents from 16,000 to 11,000. Most of the concern seems to be around the cost to Canada as these people age and receive benefits, specifically:
  • CPP: In order to receive benefits from the Canada Pension Plan (CPP), a person has to have contributed to the program through payroll taxes. The benefits are calculated based on how long a person has contributed and at what rate, so it is really based on a person’s work experience in Canada. (There are problems with this, of course, such as the role of stay-at-home parents in the system, but that’s for another blog post.)
  • OAS/GIS: Old Age Security (OAS) provides you with a “modest” pension that starts when you turn 65, but you have to live in Canada for 10 years in order to qualify.The Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) provides additional income to low income people who already qualify for the OAS (10 years in Canada). The rates for both are dismally low, with a maximum monthly benefit of about $1,200 a month – if you’ve lived in Canada for 40 years after the age of 18. Benefits are reduced for those who’ve lived here less.
  • Other Benefits: There is an Allowance or Allowance for the Survivor for those aged 60-64 whose spouses are collecting or who collected OAS. People receiving this allowance have to be in a low income bracket, have to be a Canadian citizen or legal resident and have to have lived in Canada for 10 years.
Personally, I see this as a bigger story than just numbers (just like I see the secondary suite debate as a bigger debate than parking and neighbourhood density, which is also another blog post). The impact of caring for aging parents on a family is enough of a task; putting legal barriers in the way of family responsibilities just adds to the stress. And it’s not just permanent immigration – trying to bring a family member here for a wedding or celebration has also become an almost impossible task for many immigrants. (If a family member has applied to immigrate, they are not allowed to visit until that claim is dealt with. The current wait for a claim to be resolved is 13 years. What’s happened in the last 13 years that you would have missed?)
As the population of the world ages, this is an issue we’re going to see again and again. As a country, we need to develop better ways of addressing the needs of seniors, their families and the greater communities in which they live.  The debate needs to be bigger than money – it needs to be about values and ethics and how we support each other in creating a better future for all. The vision needs to include how seniors age in community and how we support families as they address the needs of aging parents and grandparents – and it needs to include how we’re going to pay for that support. I’m not immune to the funding debates. I’m just not willing to have them be the only thing guiding my thought process.
(Cross-posted at Witch-Ways, where I’ve been crafting magic on the internet since 1994.)

Bow Cliff & Calgary Dollars – A Perfect Match!

Calgary Dollars (C$) is hosting their monthly marketplace on Monday, February 14, at the centre. Not only can you get dinner for $5 (pasta, tomato sauce, salad, bun, coffee and dessert), you can also enter to win:

Send us your Calgary Dollars story or bring it in writing to Monday’s Market at Bow Cliff and you will be entered into a draw for an awesome prize of Calgary Dollars Cash or a Gift Certificate from a participating Calgary Dollars business. Below is a great example, However you must attend the market to win! Read more…

C$ will also be hosting an Abilitries Workshop to help you learn more about the program and how it can work for you. There will also be vendors selling a variety of wares.

We just love working in partnership with the community. See you then!

Working Together to Get Seniors Moving (in More Ways than One)

In October 2007, I started in my current position as an Executive Director of a nonprofit. As many EDs quickly discover, the job description and what you actually end up doing can be two very different things. Part of that evolution for me at Bow Cliff Seniors has been the increased emphasis on transportation issues facing our members: driving cessation, concerns about snow removal in neighbourhoods, changes in transit routes as the new West LRT line is developed, and challenges with Access Calgary and taxi wait times as a result of increased demand for these services, and so on. And, like many Executive Directors, I work best in collaboration.

One of the committees that I sit on, the ElderNet Transportation Planning Table, has been working on a mapping strategy to look at where seniors travel in our city and where the gaps are. It’s been a fascinating process already: learning that the trip from one senior centre to a hospital in the same city quadrant can take up to two hours on transit, while another transit route from a hospital to several care facilities has its last bus of the evening leave 15 minutes before visiting hours are over, has us thinking about “what” people are doing when they use transit. This is starting to make the news in Toronto as well: proposed cuts to routes would impact people who are mobile (War on Roller Derby) and not-so-mobile (Fiorito: Cuts threaten bus service to Toronto’s deaf-blind community).

Another collaboration opportunity has been the involvement of nursing students from the University of Calgary at our centre. This semester, the group is looking at how our members get to the centre, get groceries and get themselves to health services on a regular basis. I’ve also encouraged them to do a community survey to assess walking, transit and driving issues in the immediate neighbourhood, as keeping people engaged in community means being able to access it. It will be interesting to see what gaps they find here in relation to the bigger ElderNet project.

This week I’m also meeting with the coordinator of Get Up and Go, which connects seniors with “buddies” in an attempt to get people to ride transit. I’m hoping that the program will be a fit for BCS members, both as a way of getting more people to the centre (so they can participate in programs, access services, and not be isolated!) but also as another way of sparking a transit advocacy strategy process in the community. I still think the key to getting seniors using transit is to get them on it before they’re seniors, but that’s going to be a bigger project. (Hmmm….)

Trying to address social isolation without looking at root causes like transportation is a futile exercise. I’m glad that there are so many opportunities to work with others in the community, and I’m glad so many of them are recognizing that our transportation systems include more than individual vehicle ownership. What a radical concept, non?

(Cross-posted at Witch-Ways and Zero-Fare Canada.)