Lilydale Probus calls for new members

Probus members gather at the Lillydale Lake Community Room every month for a general meeting and guest speaker. Pictures: STEWART CHAMBERS.

By Mikayla van Loon

The Lilydale Probus Club has been keeping retirees connected and active for nearly 40 years, a history that has seen a few changes in its time but never in its ethos.

Sticking to the Probus handbook’s purpose statement, “to provide for its members regular opportunities to keep their minds active, expand their interests and enjoy the fellowship of new friends,” vice president Rhonda Watson said it is really important for retirees to have places to go and people to see outside their normal interactions.

“We do find a lot of our members retire and live in retirement homes, which means they’re gathering with all retired people in that one group,” she said.

“Quite a few of them over the years have decided ‘no, we want more than just the people we live with and the activities provided by the retirement home. We want to expand our interests and join a Probus club’.”

Initially formed as a men’s club in 1983, it became a combined membership opportunity for men and women in 2013, where now the majority of members are women, something the committee would like to see change.

“We want to try and get the mix right,” Ms Watson said.

“We do find it is more women that are willing to come and try something new. Whereas the men are a little bit more hesitant.”

With members getting older and unable to attend meetings and gatherings, Ms Watson said numbers have dwindled to about 76.

“We’re trying to encourage new retirees. We wouldn’t discourage anybody. We will accept anybody but we encourage new retirees because there are positions that need to be held and operated through the meeting,” Ms Watson said.

“We’d like to alternate [the presidency] through the men and the women and keep it 50/50 if we can.”

While Covid-19 did have some impact on people not returning to the club, Ms Watson said age has wearied people and that’s why they would like to see some younger retirees coming through.

Activity coordinator Len Pearse said there is something for everyone and the program this year has included some new items like an overnight trip to Geelong.

Regular group walks called ‘ramblers’ take members to a different locations each month to walk and talk along a scenic track, often near the Yarra River.

The ladies meet every second month for a Probus Pals morning tea, while the gents meet twice a month for their catch up over lunch.

Trips to the theatre, dinners, monthly meetings and dress up days for the football grand final and spring carnival, as well as educational talks from people like the Macular Disease Foundation provide fun and variety.

Wanting everyone to be able to attend what they can, the Ringwood East Bendigo Bank community bus can pick people up or carpooling is often on offer.

Mr Pearse said once a year members from the club also go on what they call a ‘car trip’ to a regional centre somewhere in Victoria.

“It was great this year. We had 31 come along and it gets everybody together. We find that at the meetings you might only have 10 or 15 minutes to talk to people but you don’t get to know people properly in that time,” Ms Watson said.

“Whereas going away together, spending that week together, you make an effort with whoever’s there, you’ll just start talking and it might just be about the previous day’s activities or the activities coming up but you’re still talking and finding out about each other.”

Ms Watson said the friendships Probus allows people to make is certainly the biggest draw card for anyone thinking about joining but also the range of activities.

“We’ve formed other little friendship groups within Probus and this is what we’re all looking for, to reach out and broaden our friendship circle.”