Ask Jocelyn Iannarelli any question about her job as programmer for the Kitimat Seniors’ Centre and she quickly deflects the answer to speaking about the centre and its users.
“There’s a wealth of knowledge here. The youngest member is 50 years old and the oldest 93,” she said of the centre which operates within Riverlodge.
Iannarelli, who has pegged the end of the year as a departure date after six years as programmer, said the centre has played a crucial role in the lives of local seniors, a role that will grow as more and more people live longer.
“We’re at the stage where a retirement career is longer than a working career,” she noted. “We’re all going to have to pay attention to that.”
“One of the hottest topics today is aging and that’s where the centre plays a role, whether to be physically active or to be mentally stimulated,” Iannerelli continued. “As family and work units go away, people need a place to belong and the seniors’ centre is a perfect venue.”
As important as the seniors’ centre is to provide a place for social and recreational contact, Iannarelli is quick to point out it is also an educational hub.
“We all need to stay current with the skills we need if we want to continue to stay independent,” she said.
In that context, and in using local experts, the centre hosts workshops on elder abuse, physical abuse and the ever-growing efforts to financially defraud seniors, whether it be by telephone or online.
“Online safety is becoming so important,” Iannarelli continued, adding that the recent donation of new computers will help seniors to connect safely online as well as to perform basic functions such as income tax returns.
Iannarelli also describes the centre as unique in the province because of the support it receives from the District of Kitimat.
“That’s been one of the big changes over the years, moving to Riverlodge,” she said. “The support the centre receives when they say we’re going to support you is so important. It’s a great relationship. It’s a unique situation.”
On a personal note, Iannarelli said she has learned much from the centre’s members over the years.
“When I told them I was leaving I said the biggest gift they have given me are the lessons about life,” she said.
And on a practical note, Iannarelli noted that on her first day on the job, when peeling the shells off of hard-boiled eggs to make sandwiches, three seniors gathered around to show her how.
“And you know, the way one of those ladies showed me, that’s how I’ve done it ever since.”
A University of Victoria graduate with a background in front-line social work for various local societies and organizations prior to her position with the seniors’ centre, Iannarelli credits her father, the late Joe Iannarelli, the District of Kitimat’s long time recreation director, for her interest in working with people.
With tentative plans to leave by the end of the year, Iannarelli says she also looks forward to helping introduce her replacement to the programming position.