Keeping seniors active for over 20 years

United Way Toronto Speakers Bureau volunteer, Evelyn Rabkin-Yuditsky, proudly wears her 20 year recognition pin. She found her niche at Bernard Betel Centre, and helps other seniors stay active.

"It's important for seniors to have their own lives too"

Evelyn Rabkin-Yuditsky is a difficult woman to get a hold of. Between chairing the Bernard Betel Centre's member's council, regular walking excursions, mah jong games, bridge tournaments, a busy social life, volunteering for United Way's speaker's bureau, and dance classes, she hardly has a free half hour. What makes Evelyn's crammed schedule remarkable is that she is over 90 years old.

So many seniors like Evelyn have found more active, social and healthy lifestyles thanks to United Way agencies like the Bernard Betel Centre. Evelyn has seen membership at Bernard Betel grow from 800 in 2003, to 1810 in 2009. "It's because we have so much to offer," she explains. "The chiropody clinic is great, and the computer lab has attracted a lot of people." And with all sorts of activities ranging from bingo bonanza, arts and crafts, music, to belly dancing, there's something for everyone. "Every day I go there and I've got something to keep me busy."

After retirement, many seniors find themselves socially isolated. What Evelyn noticed about her particular community, priority neighbourhood Westminster-Branson around Bathurst-Finch, is that many newcomers moved the area from other countries to be with their kids and grand kids, but found they missed the friends and extended networks from back home. "Women who've lost their husbands can feel especially lost," Evelyn, a former widow herself, explains. "But we help them. "

Evelyn loves her family, enjoys spending quality time with them and understands that her children have their own lives. What she tries to teach others through the Bernard Betel Centre is that it's important for seniors to have their own lives too. "What I learned is that you can't rely on your children, your partner, your neighbours for happiness – you've got to make yourself happy and be your own person. And that's what this senior's centre is all about."

A volunteer at Bernard Betel these last 20 years, Evelyn met her husband Ed Yudistsky at the centre through a group called "social action" 11 years ago. "We were both in a group that went to Queen's Park to lobby for seniors rights. He was the secretary and I immediately noticed what good notes he took and how organized he was." They discovered they had many of the same interests, Ed also being a very active member of the community.

Evelyn feels very strongly about United Way and has been speaking about its importance in the community for several years. "United Way is vital to the Bernard Betel Centre ," she says. "We do very good things with that money every year – it allows us to accommodate more people and bring in more programs."

Forever grateful to Bernard Betel for its role in her life, Evelyn describes it as her "niche." "People welcomed me here. I've been here 20 years and I've seen it grow. It's become a home away from home."

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