Weekend Sun   

Family of 155 on Norris Street

Nearly 300 years between them and still rocking. Ron Harris and Joan Dunn (standing) with Trevor Blaker.

It’s probably the ultimate brag for a club – we keep you alive. It certainly makes the twilight years social and enjoyable.

“I know for a fact I wouldn’t be alive today if I hadn’t joined 30 years ago” says Trevor Blaker.

Trevor’s 101, nudging 102 and he’s a fixture at Tauranga Senior Citizens Club Inc. Don’t forget the Inc - it means the club is a legal entity, a legal corporation.

Okay, he needs a stick to lever himself out of his seat to a photo shoot at the front of the clubrooms on Nixon Road, in the shadow of Cameron Road Pak’nSave. But he’s still mobile, and having been around the clock once, he’s untroubled and uncomplaining.

“I have seen so many people retire then sit and gaze out the window for six months before dropping dead,” says Trevor.

And as the Senior Citizens’ 50th jubilee draws close, this gracious and charming advertisement for a fulfilling old age is making some observations.

“You have to stay active to stay alive,” advises Trevor, now warm and cosy in the club library. “When you are growing old, you still need something to look forward to when you wake up in the morning.”

A church hall in Norris Street before it became the Senior Cits club.

For three months he looked forward to indoor bowls, two or three times a week. “But I knocked off bowls,” he says. “Not because I couldn’t do it – I was worried I was holding people up.” Now he just plays cards.

Joan Dunn is 93 next month (June), and joined the club when she arrived in town from Hamilton looking for somewhere to play bowls. That was about 40 years ago. Now she’s a life member.

And again, the message is about the enjoyment and benefit of staying active when so many give up.

“When you get older you tend to give up a lot of activities,” says Joan, “even though you still really want to do something.

“The club gives you an incentive and something to look forward too, two or three days a week. It’s wonderful.”

The Senior Citizens had its origins at other venues around town before a club deputation hit up Mayor Bob Owens in 1969 for a permanent home.

Bob paid $200 to secure the Norris Street building before a Kiwi lottery grant of $15,000 settled the purchase and $1,867 covered furnishings and fittings.  

But it would be another 12 years before members finished converting and developing the old building into an office, kitchen, library and hall. Tauranga Senior Citizens officially opened their Norris Street clubrooms on April 3, 1991.

 The club boasts a membership of 155. “People drop off the perch,” says president Ron Harris. “That’s the nature of the club and our business. But they are replaced. That’s life.” And in the meantime, Ron says the club is like an extended family.

And there’s not one of those 155 that Trevor Blaker doesn’t like. “They’re a wonderful crowd,” he says. “Oh, we’ve had the odd one that didn’t turn out so good, but we got rid of them.” It seems there’s no place for a bad apple in this extended family, this home away from home.

There’s an age threshold of 55 to join the Tauranga Senior Citizens Club, however president Ron Harris, himself 81, estimates the average age to be more like 85. “We care for everyone, look after them and make it all worthwhile.”

Like Harry Peters – he couldn’t wait around for The Weekend Sun to arrive. He’s at the thick end of his 80s. “He comes bowling three days a week and plays cards the other two. The club is his life and soul.”

On Saturday, July 9, Tauranga Senior Citizens will gather for morning tea and a chat with their patron, Mayor Greg Brownless.

There’s a coach ride somewhere for lunch and some entertainment in the afternoon. Then the senior cits will set about their second 50 years.

You’re invited to join the extended family.

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