Monterey Centre a social hub

Facility provides various options for connecting with like-minded individuals

Ena Cooke  pauses while teaching a computer class for seniors in the Granite Room at the Monterey Recreation Centre.

Ena Cooke pauses while teaching a computer class for seniors in the Granite Room at the Monterey Recreation Centre.

Choosing the wrong door to get into the Oak Bay library, Mahinder Doman found herself inside the Monterey Recreation Centre for the first time by accident.

It’s an easy mistake to make – the senior’s social hub shares an entrance with the library branch. But it’s no mistake that Doman kept coming back.

“I come here most days just to read the newspaper and be around other people,” said Doman, who keeps her age a secret.

Anyone 50 years of age or older can join the centre for access to clubs, courses and social outings.

Ena Cooke, 77, joined at the insistence of her husband in 2000. Before his death, the couple enjoyed the sing-along club together.

“He said I had to come because the women here were starting to think he was single and flirting with him,” Cooke joked.

In her first year at the centre, Cooke co-founded the computer club. She’s been a regular computer instructor since, at times teaching up to four courses.

“I wanted to give something back,” she said. “I was used to being busy and running things, so they put me to work.”

An accomplished businesswoman, Cooke immigrated to Canada from Scotland with a fresh accounting degree. She found a job the day after she stepped off the ship. At 37 she was vice-president of a metal trading company in Montreal. She moved to Oak Bay in the 1980s and became the first executive director of the Knowledge Network, back when the provincial government TV station was based out of a hut at the University of Victoria.

Many of the folks at Monterey have interesting stories, and connect around tales of their working lives.

Maureen Rowntree, 60, became a physicist and computer scientist when few women were entering those fields.

Over tea in the centre’s lobby, she sat with her 77-year-old mother, Susan.

“When you get older, your friends start passing on and you can easily become isolated,” Rowntree said, sitting at an eight-seat dining table she and her mother call the “friendship table.”

“We find people to talk to here,” Rowntree said. “It’s a way to get out of the house and be part of the community.”

Monterey Recreation Centre, located at 1442 Monterey Ave., is celebrating its 40th year in operation with $40 annual memberships until Dec. 31. New members are always welcome.

Learn more by calling 250-370-7300 or at recreation.oakbaybc.org/monterey.html.

editor@oakbaynews.com