Hermanus is home to many retirees, but in a world which is primarily focused on the young, they may sometimes feel excluded from a fast-paced, technological way of life, very different from the one they have known for most of their lives.

The South African Association for Retired People (SAARP) was established in 1982 with the aim of promoting the interests of senior citizens, and although it has adapted to changing times, it is still geared towards enriching their lives, raising self-esteem and influencing society to support a secure and rewarding existence for older people.

Amazingly in this day and age, membership of the national body is absolutely free and open to any person over the age of 50. It offers many advantages like discounts on short-term insurance, funeral policies and certain medical expenses, like spectacles and hearing aids, as well as participation in a holiday programme. But, as importantly, there is the option of joining a local social club and enjoying its activities. Of the 31 clubs in the country, Hermanus is proud to be one of the largest and most active, with a current membership of 363… and growing.

As its Chairperson, Ingrid Green remarks, “The secret is in the level of commitment and dedication of the fired-up volunteers on our seven-person committee. There are many lonely people in Hermanus – older people who have lost a spouse or couples who are new in town and know no one – and our aim is to include them in our activities, offer them the opportunity to make new friends and stimulate their minds. We have a meeting on the second Wednesday of every month and always have an interesting guest speaker – this month it was Joanna and Allan Hardie talking about the ‘Two Churchills who changed history’. The topics cover a wide range of interests, so there’s something for everyone.

“Then, on the second Wednesday of every month, we have an outing, usually including lunch at one of the excellent restaurants in the area, which charge us a discounted rate. And I can tell you, these outings are a party all the way, a real laugh-a-minute – one of the restaurants we visited ran out of wine during our meal! Of course, not all our members attend everything; they pick and choose. Our monthly meetings usually attract around 120 to 140 members, while we generally have about 50 or 60 people on our outings.”

In order to keep local club membership fees affordable, they charge only R50 pp per annum, which does little more than cover overheads like the hire of the venue for their monthly talks and a small gift for the speaker. At these gatherings, second-hand books and DVDs are available on loan to members at R5 each.

Ingrid mentions that they welcome suggestions from members for the introduction of new activities. They have recently formed an informal canasta club, for instance, and they have an arrangement with the Hermanus Bowls Club to play a social game there once a month at minimal cost. They will also soon be launching a monthly newsletter.

Two of the highlights of the year, though, are their annual bring-and-braai and their all-day Mystery Tour. “The destination is kept secret until they arrive there,” laughs Ingrid. “As the organisers, my partner-in-crime, Liz Gravenor and I are the only ones in the know and there’s always lots of fun and laughter on the bus as everyone tries to guess where we’ll end up – last year we went to Struisbaai and the Air Force Base nearby; it was a great success.” For the past couple of years, she has also organised a short holiday trip for those who wish to take advantage of the opportunity of a bargain-priced, everything-included break in the company of a bunch of like-minded friends.

During the nine years that Ingrid has been involved, the membership has grown from around 80 to close on 400. There have been a few other changes, too: the average age of members is much lower than it was then and although the meetings are always conducted in English, roughly 45% of the members are now Afrikaans speakers.

The club has never actively recruited members; its growth is largely attributable to friends bringing friends. However, Ingrid feels sure there are new retirees in town who don’t know about the club and would love to be part of it. As she says, “Lifelong friendships have been formed here, so kick up your heels and join us; you won’t be a stranger for long.”

To enquire about membership or obtain more information about the club’s activities Ingrid Green may be contacted on 082 552 0655 or ingridgreen@hermanus.co.za.

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