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‘To Know New Friends’

Older patrons are using the Library in a new way to create their Library Story

‘To Know New Friends’

After attending a 50+ Coffee and Conversation group, Rudy Wagner and his wife Mary Jean decided to keep the conversation going. Now, using a free, bookable meeting room at Signal Hill Library for the past eight years, it’s more than just a casual coffee group — members attend lectures together, share in weekly tai chi lessons, and more, all for free at the Library.

Rudy Wagner, eight years with the group

“It’s such an interesting group, and as long as we have the space at the Library to do it, I’m happy to make it happen. My wife and I supply the coffee, and the group supplies the conversation! Some of them bake, and so we’ll get to try different foods from different countries around the world. It’s the variety that I love. I used to be a principal at public schools in Toronto, so I’ve been working with the community my whole life, and I just love meeting new people. It’s the companionship. We have new people join us every time, there are no strict rules. People come when they can, there’s no fee. It’s just a place for people to get together and chat.”

Mary Jean Wagner, eight years with the group

“Our grandchildren were getting older and starting to head off to school, so we weren’t so occupied with them anymore, and I wanted to meet other people. Where we live, there are a lot of people our son’s age. We moved from Toronto to live near him and help with the two grandchildren, but we had difficulty meeting people our age. And I really wanted to make new friends, because it can be hard to meet new people as you get older. So, this was a perfect opportunity for us. We feel that we’ve made friendships here, and others have done the same. The Library makes it easy for us to continue doing what we’ve always loved to do.”

Pal Aggarwal, eight years with the group

“We came to Calgary from Germany in 2011, my wife and me, and my wife was just coming to the Library for some books. Then she saw this group here and started talking to them. Now we’ve been coming here every week, ever since we came here. It’s a real cosmopolitan group, you see people from all different countries, you have different subjects to talk about, that’s the best part. We are a big group, but there are four of us couples, and now we have each other [over] every once in a while, for dinner at our home. We meet every two weeks at somebody’s house for drinks, it’s nice. We are all very friendly to each other. It’s a real inspiration, it gives you a positive feeling, and I appreciate that.”

Elaine Lee, seven years with the group

“The best part of this group is that people who feel isolated or don’t know too many people have a place to go. They have a community, and they know that they have something to look forward to each week. It keeps them active. That’s the beauty of the group, they open up to you. It’s not just a weekly meeting, they become like family for those who come on a regular basis. Getting to know them has really been my greatest honour and pleasure, because I really feel like I can bring them joy, and to see them interact with one another and to see how the group has grown brings me so much joy as well.”

Jeffrey Quo, two years with the group

“I had joined a Library reading club … actually, I joined two. I used to be a computer engineer, but after I retired, I had to find a way to kill the time. That group forced me to read some books which I would never have thought to involve myself in; it forced me to expand my interests, same as this group. I find it quite interesting. I needed to find some new focus in my life. Before I retired, I only focused on my job. Now I need to change my lifestyle. So reading, or making a new friend, that’s important for me. I enjoy that about this group. In this hour we always have lots of new people join us, and we get the chance to know new friends.”

Shirley Lutz, two years with the group

“It’s fun, it’s free, it’s close by, and the people here are just so warm and friendly. I love the conversation because I get to learn more about the people around me. It’s an interesting group we have, because we have so many different nationalities here. A lot of our people don’t come from around here, and it exposes me to other cultures and ideas, which I really enjoy. Today I just met a new lady who joined us from Vietnam, so I’ve been getting to know her, and she says she’ll be coming back. It’ll be great to have her join our group.”

Tam Dang, first-time visitor to the group

“I just retired, so I have a lot of time on my hands. So I started to wonder, where can I go? When we work, we wake up, go to work, we come home, we sleep. We have the same routine. But since then I’ve become so bored. I miss having a place to go. Every day I saw my friends and had conversations with them, but now it’s so empty. So that’s why I am looking for a group a bit older, with the same feelings as me. In this group, I can be with people the same age and in the same situation as me. Even though I’ve only seen them this first time, people have already explained to me: we are friends now, and we can talk.”

David Stratford, two years with the group

“I find the people in the group to be so funny — their little explanations of their lives, where they come from and what they do day to day. They really are absolutely wonderful people to be around. I try to make them laugh, and mostly I can do that. Some can’t hear as well as they used to, so you may have to tell your joke a couple of times. I call us the crumblies — I say I’m going to go visit with the crumblies, because frankly we’re all falling apart a little bit. But I love to be a part of that. We’re all here, we all try, we don’t give up. We’re just trying to live this section of our life fully. If you want to stay young, then you have to think young, and you’ve got to laugh.”

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