Nellie Bruton says there’s lots for seniors to do together
© Rosalie MacEachern
As president of the Westville Heritage Group, Nellie Bruton is never far from a phone, solving a problem or sharing a new idea.
A lot of Pictou County seniors are just one step shy of joining a seniors group, according to Nellie Bruton, president of the Westville Heritage Group.
“There’s no need for most seniors to be lonely today. We’ve got places and activities for people who enjoy the company of other seniors. That doesn’t mean we have all the services we need, not by any means, but the best way to get services is to join together,” she said.
Bruton, who lives in Little Harbour, grew up on Cowan Street in Westville, one of nine Lloyd children raised by a coal-miner and a hard-working stay-at-home mother. When she finished school she moved to Halifax to work and soon married a navy man.
“He did his five years but he wasn’t a career man and he wanted to move back to Mississauga where all his family was. With no jobs in Pictou County and lots in Ontario I couldn’t argue so I went with him.”
She did office work for 20 years and then went back to school, trained to be a health care worker and got a job in that field. She raised six children in the Clarkson area of Mississauga but with retirement and the death of her husband she moved back to Pictou County.
“I didn’t want my children worrying about who was going to look after mom. I always missed home and I decided I’d give it a try. I moved back in 1996 and I’m still here,” she said.
Bruton has siblings in the county and quickly connected with old friends from her school days.
“I was only here a short time when I was invited to join the ladies at the Little Harbour Fire department. From there on I’ve been involved with a lot of groups,” she said.
Her presidency of the Westville senior’ group coincides with its 30th anniversary which will be marked with a celebration and sit-down dinner in early June.
“I wasn’t expecting to become president when I joined years ago but I’m just starting my third two-year term. I tell them I can’t please everybody, but I’ll do the best I can.”
When the group, which has a meeting room provided by the Town of Westville, originally formed, it had 400 members but now has 80.
“Just think of it, 400 members. They had full choir, they ran dances every Friday night and they organized overnight trips on a regular basis.”
These days the group meets the first Monday of every month and has regularly scheduled art classes, bowling and a fun day for playing cards and other activities. They recently completed two eight-month singing programs which also featured a hot meal.
Bruton says the group, like others in the county, receives great support from Seniors Outreach co-coordinator Mary MacLellan and Community Links staffer Brenda MacKinnon.
“Most of our events have sandwiches and sweets or a full meal. The seniors really enjoy having a meal or a cup of tea and something to eat together. For some it is a big change from the toast and tea they have at home.”
Bruton would like to see more men and women join the group.
“Thirty years ago a seniors group was an outlet for women who’d spent all their years at home. Finally, they had time to do things with friends. Society is different today so I don’t think we’ll ever see those numbers again but we certainly have room for more.”
Aside from the social activities, she points out joining a seniors group can help navigating the changes that come with increasing age.
“We can put people in touch with services and programs and opportunities. We all go through a lot of the same things so we can share our experiences, whether it something to do with taxes or how to get a fuel or property tax rebate.”
With an increasing older population Bruton thinks the various recreation departments in the county should look at providing additional services.
“I know some of the rec departments offer some events but seniors need more. If they organize the programs the seniors groups would provide the people. When we have to do everything on our own it is often too much work.”
She also sees advantages in seniors groups joining together for various events.
“The Pictou group and the Westville group have always had a good relationship. A lot of our members have gone on day trips organized by Pictou and why not? That’s how you fill a bus and keep your costs down.”
Speaking of cost, prospective members should know it costs $5 a year to belong to the Westville group.
“On meeting day we collect $2 and on Fun day we collect $2. There is no better deal out there.”
The group, according to Bruton, has reunited old friends, brought new friends together and sparked the odd romance, as well.