In retirement, Bob MacNair’s social calendar is chock-full of engagements, activities, and get-togethers.
He’s an active volunteer in the community, but it’s not his unpaid work that’s introduced him to vast social circles, it’s his membership in Collingwood’s Probus clubs.
Probus is “strictly a social club,” said MacNair, a Collingwood resident and the director of the Ontario District 7, a territory that stretches from Collingwood to Sudbury.
Probus, which began with a single meeting in Caterham, England on March 2, 1966, is a club for retired or semi-retired individuals to meet regularly (meetings typically take place once a month) for a guest speaker, fellowship, and perhaps to plan other activities together. The name is a hybrid of the words professional and business, it’s also related to the word probity, referring to the quality of being honest, behaving correctly, and having strong moral principles.
Probus is not a service club, it’s not a charitable organization, and the club doesn’t engage in any fundraising officially, though, MacNair said, many Probus members are active volunteers in their communities.
“It’s about giving people at the end of their lives the opportunity to engage in all types of social activity,” said MacNair.
The intention is for Probus clubs to be pressure-free for the membership. There are no attendance requirements, and no rules about joining in on activities.
MacNair and his wife are both retired teachers, and have been members of local Probus clubs for about six years. While he talked with CollingwoodToday, she was upstairs with fellow Probus friends learning how to play mahjong (with real tiles, not even on a computer).
Probus club memberships can be women-only, men-only, and combined. The annual fee is about $30 to $55 for the year, and from the club, small specific-interest groups will break off for regular gatherings, such as the women’s mahjong group. There are book, bridge and crib groups too. Sometimes clubs will organize bus trips for their membership to events like a Blue Jays Game or a performance of Come From Away at the King’s Wharf theatre, and there are more physical activities like a weekly snowshoe trek, cross-country skiing, downhill skiing, and cycling. Some clubs have computer or investment groups for their membership.
“We want people to engage in their retirement years, and to develop new friendships,” said MacNair. “Probus clubs can open up so many friendships and avenues to remain active.”
MacNair said there are no two clubs the same, and the activities or groups that form within the Probus clubs are up to its membership. Most of all, he said, it’s about friendship and cultivating those connections within a community.
“Loneliness is a major cause of illness and mental health problems,” said MacNair. “When you socialize, you learn about each other. You find you’re not alone in so many ways … I just believe in Probus so much.”
In Collingwood, there are 10 Probus clubs. The first club, a men’s club called The Probus Club of Collingwood was formed in 1987 and is only the fourth club to be formed in Canada. Other clubs in Collingwood include The Women’s Probus Club of Pretty River, The Probus Club of Blue Mountain (men’s club), The Probus Club of Collingwood By the Bay (women’s club), The Probus Club of Collingwood Gateway (combined), The Probus Club of Harbourlands (women’s club), The Probus Club of Hume Street and District (combined club), The Probus Club of Mountain View Collingwood (combined club), The Lighthouse Probus Club (combined club), and The Four Seasons Probus Club (combined club).
Membership ranges from 60 to 300 members. In The Blue Mountains, the Beaver Valley club is the largest in Canada with 600 members. There are 4,000 Probus clubs worldwide, and of those, 249 are Canadian.
MacNair is a member of three local clubs, and he said he’s amazed at how busy he is.
“We could be going to a social activity daily,” said MacNair. “I don’t think about what day of the week it is, I think, ‘what activity do I have on today?’”
This month is National Probus Month, and Mayor Brian Saunderson made a proclamation declaring the celebration in Collingwood.
MacNair said the annual month-long celebration is aimed at increasing awareness in the community about the local Probus clubs, and encouraging Probus members to “be a friend, and bring a friend.”