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Impact with Joan Furber

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Joan Furber, President of the Golden Years Society, was a guest on a recent edition of IMPACT.  A long-time resident of Fort McMurray - she arrived in 1966 - she has been an avid volunteer for decades. She shared her story with host Russell Thomas.

As a longtime resident of Fort McMurray, Joan has spent much of that time volunteering with the community and particularly seniors.  Joan’s work with seniors began through her mother-in-law. 

She began driving her mother-in-law to and from the seniors’ centre, and from there became more involved. 

“[My mother-in-law] didn’t want to ask me to [drive] every Wednesday…,” said Joan.  So then I started saying ‘I’ll come in with you, I’m not that busy’ to prove that she could go every Wednesday.  Then it just kind of snowballed from there.”

The Golden Years Society has been in existence for 40 years, with its new centre celebrating its 25th anniversary.  The centre is a gathering place for those over the age of 55, and its prime purpose is to promote wellness and fellowship through activities for seniors in the municipality. 

“It’s just booming, we have over 300 members,” said Joan.  “We have lunch every Wednesday that 120-130 people are at every week.” 

The Golden Years Society partners with a wide array of community organizations, including the United Way of Fort McMurray. 

“If we didn’t have United Way funding our doors would be closed,” said Joan.  “We have one staff that’s paid, and that’s with the thanks of United Way.”

Aside from a paid staff member, the work done at the Golden Years Society is done on a volunteer basis. 

“All of our stuff done at the centre is done by volunteers,” said Joan.  “Everything we do is by volunteers.”

To offer more amenities to seniors in the region, there is a new Continuing Care Centre that will break ground in Willow Square this spring. 

“You’ll need to be not-well to move in there,” said Joan.  “You need to be assessed by home care and the doctors to determine whether you qualify to move in there.” 

After that is built, a plan is in place for another addition to Willow Square called Aging in Place.  This would be housing for seniors, and does not require individuals to have a health issue to live there.  Joan is passionate about the Willow Square project and believes that it the right place for these facilities. 

“The hospital is right there, doctors, banks, everything is there,” said Joan.  “To me it is a perfect location.” 

Even though the Continuing Care Centre is set to break ground in Willow Square this spring, it was a turbulent path to get the centre built in its current location.  When a proposed change in location happened, Joan and others took to the streets to advocate for Willow Square to be the spot for the Continuing Care Centre.

“A few years back they took Willow Square away from us and thought we’d all like to live in Parsons Creek,” said Joan.  “So some of us seniors we took to the streets, we went out three times, we got 7,500 people to sign a petition saying we didn’t want to be there.” 

Ultimately, the decision was made to keep the facility in Willow Square with 2018 being the year it finally becomes a reality. 

With this being a big year for Willow Square, the Golden Years Society also has upcoming plans for the duration of 2018. 

“We are trying to get to a point where there is something going on there every day,” said Joan. 

Recent activities have included floor curling, floor shuffleboard, crafting, quilt making and paint nights. 

“We’re getting to do a lot more things than we used to do,” said Joan. “We’re getting to be much more active and we’re becoming a real activity centre.”

With her thousands of hours of time dedicated to working with seniors, Joan shared what motivates her ongoing passion. 

“I guess everybody likes to do something, and for me I just found a lot of satisfaction in [volunteering] with seniors because they appreciate what you do.”


IMPACT is a collaboration of The United Way of Fort McMurray, FuseSocial, Shaw TV Fort McMurray and 91.1 The Bridge.  It is heard on Tuesdays at 10:30 am. It is rebroadcast on Shaw Cable 10.


Russell is a 19 year resident of Wood Buffalo, a community builder, facilitator, social media practitioner, actor, director and artist. He began his Middle Age Bulge blog as a way of capturing his journey to wellness. It has morphed into a daily journal about all aspects of life in the north. Russell works with The United Way of Fort McMurray and co-owns Birdsong Connections with his wife Heather.