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Good life: Social media’s got nothing on this

The A&W coffee clatch crew enjoys their ritual. - Andrew Leong
The A&W coffee clatch crew enjoys their ritual.
— image credit: Andrew Leong

In coffee shops all over Cowichan most mornings there are unofficial seniors’ social networks functioning; although the participants don’t really think of them that way.

Check in early at Tim Hortons, Serious Coffee, A&W, or almost anywhere they serve coffee. You will likely find six, eight or 10 older guys sitting around chatting and passing time for a couple of hours.  Some of these unofficial groups have been getting together — sometimes seven mornings a week — for more than 10 or 15 years.

The group down at the Duncan A&W next to the Cowichan Aquatic Centre has been around for a long time. It got its start around a bunch of retired loggers; a truck driver, a faller, a yarding engineer and a relative newcomer who is a retired forest industry executive.

Their common interest also focuses around building and showing hot rods, which kind of explains their A&W location — the company has always been supportive of Show and Shine events and hot rod “rides.”

Their number now also includes a couple of guys retired from Telus.

It’s a gender thing at the A&W, although a few couples can be seen in the restaurant most mornings. The guys are over in one corner and on certain mornings you will see a bunch of silver-haired ladies in the other corner; they are the Heart and Stroke group of walkers who get together regularly for health and fitness and companionship over a cup of coffee.

For the guys, it seems natural — even necessary — to have a place to go in the mornings after all those years of getting out of the house to go to work. Sitting around the house just doesn’t seem to be an option.

For Jim, the faller, (these guys are a little publicity shy and preferred no last names) “home is the woman’s domain.” Jim said he feels he needs to be active and have somewhere to go and something to do.

Face-to-face social contact seems to be at the core of what these guys are doing. While most of them are quite computer literate, they don’t do Facebook, Twitter or texting. Their mornings are about men actually talking to other men about things going on in their lives.

“Sure, we can be a little cliquish but once we get to know someone they can fit in,” said Jim. “There are no job titles here; there is no one superior or anything like that. We are all just one of the guys.”

Ian, the retired executive, said coffee conversation goes to all kinds of topics, including cars, how to get the most out of investments or even prostate cancer, which is a pretty male subject — especially for this age group.

Ken, a retired Telus guy, is known as “Mister Fix-It” and is apparently generous with his time and advice. As far as Ken is concerned, people who are considering retirement should not even make that decision unless there is something very real they can do when they suddenly have a lot of time on their hands.

He has completely remodelled his home, and his coffee group friends say it is a work of art. Now he is thinking of selling that house and beginning another.

George, the retired truck driver, says “Everyone here has a different agenda when they go home, …they all have their own thing that they do.” For George that means beekeeping, fishing and his garden.

The real magic here is sitting with a cuppa, rubbing elbows with a bunch of other guys with common interests and feeling you are actually in touch with other human beings.

For these guys, social media has nothing on this experience.

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