Sercovie, one of Quebec’s most successful and unique seniors’ community services organizations started life in 1973 as a neighbourhood initiative launched by a small group of academics and locals concerned with the quality of life of seniors in their area.
The inexorable growth in demand for Sercovie’s services compelled the organization to forge new partnerships with other community organizations several years ago. It now serves 3,500 members aged 50 years and older in a facility that has tripled in size since 2014 and that is now the largest community centre for seniors in the Estrie region. Despite this expansion, it is already operating at capacity.
Sercovie’s success hinges on the three program areas that reinforce its slogan, “Move, Taste, Discover”: the activity centre, Meals on Wheels (the largest in the province) and volunteerism. The addition of a public cafeteria, open to members and non-members alike, and the sale of frozen meals bring in additional revenue to the non-profit concern.
“This combination of wide-ranging activities, Meals on Wheels programming and a public cafeteria is unique in Quebec,” says Guylaine Dubé, community life coordinator, adding that Sercovie manages the only regional community centre specializing solely in the needs of seniors. “Our clients are loyal, with 80% membership renewals.”
The 80 activities on offer range from language, art, music, technology and dance classes to myriad indoor and outdoor physical fitness pursuits that are targeted to four ability levels, taking individual constraints into account. Kinesiologists guide physical movement classes and provide personal assessments to help members develop healthy, active lifestyles.
An innovative arts class run by a local artisan group, Les Mains Agiles (Agile Hands), has dozens of devoted members.
Asked to identify one person or group who has most benefited from Sercovie’s programs, Ms. Dubé describes the Seniors in Action program,targeted to those 75 years of age and older. In its 15th year of operation, it allows for members to mingle and learn from weekly guest speakers focusing on issues such as governmental programs and nutrition as well as get moving in a physical activity and have lunch together.
Servocie’s strong community presence depends in large part on its robust army of 350 volunteers, fanned out in the kitchen, the reception area and the administrative department and delivering meals to over 500 Meals on Wheels recipients every day.
“Older people are taking more responsibility for their mental and physical health,” says Ms. Dubé. “Our programs “encourage autonomy, good nutrition and physical and mental well-being, allowing people to stay at home rather than be institutionalized, which is more costly to society.
Sercovie is 68% self-financing, with the balance of funding coming from governmental agencies. Although stable funding allows for some forward planning, Ms. Dubé would welcome increased government recognition and support of Sercovie’s important work to reach even more seniors, through improved resources such as a better adapted swimming pool.
Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard’s recent visit is testament to Sercovie’s excellent community outreach, suggesting its continued growth is assured.