‘The best thing that could happen to me’
April 2, 2012 | Suri Epstein - Correspondent
TORONTO – If you step into the Dr. Max & Gianna Glassman Seniors Outreach Centre from Monday to Friday at 11:30 in the morning, you’ll hear a multitude of languages that could set your head spinning. Yet, the more than 60 seniors originating from a diverse range of countries across the world gather as one community. While the majority are immigrants and Holocaust survivors; a handful grew up right here in Toronto.
One of those native-born Torontonians is Rose Wise. Born on 438 Dundas St. W., she grew up a block away from the Art Gallery of Ontario. As a young girl, she liked to go ice skating on an outdoor rink at the Grange Park behind the gallery.
“I’ll never forget skating the night they closed down the rink,” she said. “They made an announcement – King George V had died.”
That was on the Jan. 20, 1936. In the 75 years since she has spent 10 years in Montreal, raised three children, worked for 25 years and eventually retired.
Three and a half years ago she didn’t have any activities or programs beyond her morning swim. Her life was about to change dramatically the day she noticed an advertisement in the Jewish Tribune.
“I saw the ad,” she said. “Two other people in my building also noticed it. I think the three of us were the first ones through the doors when it first opened.” Wise has been coming regularly ever since.
“It’s the best thing that could happen to my life.”
Wise still swims daily to maintain her health. She recalls learning to swim as a young girl.
“Eight Jewish girls lived on my block on Dundas Street,” she said. “We didn’t have the money for carfare so we walked down to Lake Ontario and taught ourselves to swim.”
Wise worked for a company called Better Blouse for 18 years. When the company went bankrupt she left in tears. Three days later though, she landed an interview at Associated Hebrew Day School and worked there for seven years, before finally retiring.
Wise enjoys all the programming at the Seniors Centre, but more than anything cherishes the sense of community and friendships she's developed there.
“I sit with my friend Ida who I befriended here,” she said. “I enjoy being with her even when I don’t do anything else.”
The sense of belonging and community is a precious thing for otherwise isolated seniors who don’t have anywhere else to go or much else to look forward to when they wake up each morning.
Wise’s simple evaluation is echoed by all the participants in the program, no matter what their mother tongue: “It’s a wonderful, wonderful thing, this program.”
This is the first in a series of stories about the Dr. Max & Gianna Glassman Senior Outreach Centre.