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Fellowship organization for older Central Albertans starts in Red Deer

PROBUS meets monthly with retired or semi-retired members
Sheila Neale, president of the Red Deer branch of PROBUS, a social group for retired or semi-retired people. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).

Sheila Neale of Red Deer said she eased her way out of “the best job in the world” gradually.

The former Peavey Mart buyer who regularly travelled to Asia on purchasing trips, reduced her hours to part-time for a couple of years before retiring. Neale believes this was the best way to transition to life at home.

But many other Albertans, who will be leaving the workforce in increasing numbers over the next few years, may not have that choice. They could find the abrupt change difficult, isolating and not what they expected.

“Loneliness among seniors is quite significant,” said Dennis Pommen, Alberta director with the executive committee fellowship organization, PROBUS CANADA.

Pommen believes more people are joining his non-fundraising, non-sectarian and non-political group “because it gives them a sense of connection with others.”

The first PROBUS club was formed in 1966 by the Rotary Club of Caterham, England for retired professionals and business people to meet for fellowship.

Today, people from all walks of life are welcome to join. Across Canada there are about 250 clubs with over 38,000 members.

Neale, president of the newly formed Red Deer chapter of PROBUS, said she signed on for the chance to meet other vibrant retired, or semi-retired people in this community. She’s already “excited” by the positive vibe among the 35 former teachers, business people, engineers, and others who meet on the second Thursday of the month at ABC Country restaurant.

Local group members, aged from their 50s and up, get together for conversation, to plan activities and listen to guest speakers, such as local historian Michael Dawe and other experts.

Neale said people can connect through shared interests, like gardening or book clubs, hiking along park trails, planning movie nights, or excursions to Lacombe’s Cow Patti Theatre — and there’s no obligation to do anything if you don’t want to.

The lack of fundraising is a big selling point, said Neale, who noted many members have already put in years of volunteering and just want a social connection.

Although Pommen still belongs to an Edmonton Rotary Club, he likes the relaxed atmosphere of PROBUS, stating “I call it the do-nothing club because you don’t have to be committed to anything.”

Helena Green, the group’s membership director, had a hard time meeting people after moving to Red Deer from Nanaimo a few years ago. “I was looking for that connection and for doing stuff.”

Since a friend belonged to PROBUS group in B.C. and liked it, Green was thrilled to discover the local branch starting in Red Deer. It’s one of 10 PROBUS groups in Alberta, including Lethbridge, Airdrie, Leduc, Camrose and Grande Prairie.

“A lot of people here are active,” said Green. “ They want to deeply experience life and have a lot of life left to live.”

Anyone interested in more information (the group has a $65 per year membership fee for the first year, and $50 annually thereafter) can email

Lana Michelin

About the Author: Lana Michelin

Lana Michelin has been a reporter for the Red Deer Advocate since moving to the city in 1991.
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