Dianne Sawicki (left) will take over PAN’s seniors column from Sylvia Yee.

Longtime seniors columnist reflects on 25 years

Sylvia Yee has written weekly in the Peace Arch News since 1989.

The Peace Arch News’ longest-running columnist is passing the torch to a new writer.

Beginning next Wednesday, Sylvia Yee – who has been the face of PAN’s Seniors Scene column for more than 25 years – will no longer write the weekly events column, and it will instead be penned by her City of White Rock colleague, Dianne Sawicki.

Yee – currently White Rock’s manager of community recreation – has worked with the city since 1988, starting as a recreation programmer. About one year into her tenure, a department secretary, who had been in charge of the column, suggested it be written by one of the programmers.

“She got tired of writing it, so I relented and I’ve been doing it every since,” Yee said.

“And after all these years, it’s still my face in there. Now, we’ll see if people figure out that it’s Dianne doing it, and it’s a different face in the paper.”

Yee downplays her role in the column’s popularity, instead insisting it’s simply a good way to let seniors in the community know what is going on in a particular week.

“It’s not an opinion column or anything, it’s just information – encouraging people to get out and do things.”

Though she is giving up her column-writing duties, Yee is quick to point out she isn’t retiring, nor leaving the City of White Rock. Instead, she’s just focusing on other things.

“The job is evolving. I’m just giving up this one thing. I’m not retiring or anything – we are just starting wild rumours about that,” she laughed.

Though she admits she won’t necessarily miss seeing her smiling face in the paper each week – nor the “gentle reminders” from PAN staff when, once in awhile, she is a little late emailing her column to the newsroom – Yee, who worked with seniors at Vancouver General Hospital before taking her job in White Rock, is still as committed as ever to working with the city’s seniors.

Since the late 1980s, she has seen the Kent Street Activity Centre – and seniors’ programs citywide – expand greatly, which is something she is proud to have been a part of.

“There are more programs now, and the philosophy behind (Kent Street) is that it’s run by volunteers,” said Yee, as the Kent Street Centre’s weekly sing-a-long group crooned The Lion Sleeps Tonight in the adjoining room.

“We do have staff, of course, to steer things, but all the groups – like the sing-a-long group, who you can hear right now – are all run by volunteers. They do it just to be involved in their community.

“There are some seniors, too, who aren’t necessarily ‘joiners’ – they don’t want to (officially) join the bingo group, but they still like to help at it. And that’s great too – it gives them some social interaction, gets them out.”

Keeping seniors involved and active has always been the crux of the Seniors Scene column, whether it means detailing the city’s latest round of day-trips, or providing information on safe-driving workshops, social dances or computer courses.

“There’s less interest in some programs than others, but it’s a very busy place – there’s all kinds of activity groups. We have people who want to stay active, and get out there and be busy.”

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