When Saundra Arnold's husband passed away four years ago, she found herself grieving and looking for a way to move forward.
"I was very depressed when my husband died. We did everything together, he was like my best friend. Most people don't have that," she said. "I thought you can stay home and look at the walls or you can try to figure out what you want to do."
She remembered a group called York Singles that one of her friends was a part of it. It is a social club for York Region residents aged 50 and older who are single, whether through death, divorce or any other reason. The goal of the group is to foster friendship between singles rather than anything romantic.
"They're just a really nice group of people," Arnold said.
The club has monthly meetings, which usually are held at the Legion in Richmond Hill. Every month members are given a calendar of events like card game nights, bowling, movies, dinners out, and more. Members can choose which activities they wish to take part in.
Arnold's activity of choice is hiking. The hiking group gets together regularly and was even able to keep meeting throughout COVID-19 as they could stay physically distanced and outdoors while walking. One of their recent treks was through Sheppard's Bush in Aurora, but the group hikes all over the region, incuding George Richardson Park in Newmarket, the Eldred King Tract in Whitchurch-Stouffville, and the Stouffville Conservation Area.
Michale Waslenky, who organizes the York Singles hiking group, said, "We have a very small but quite pretty dedicated group. We have barely missed two or three Saturdays over the entire COVID experience," he said.
"I was divorced and I had been through the dating scene many times and had some good experiences and some bad. At some point I thought I would just like to have some friends that I can go to events with, no commitment or any such thing, just friends," he said.
He has served on the executive team of York Singles three times for a total of six years. The executive help coordinate the group and create the monthly calendars.
A sample calendar on the club's website shows a series of regular activites like golf every Friday morning and euchre every Friday night and hiking every Saturday. Then there are a number of special events members can take part in like dinner and a show at the NewRoads Performing Arts Centre, a movie night at Cineplex Aurora, a trip to a museum in Toronto, and mini-golfing in Stouffville.
On top of the hiking, Arnold said she likes some of the musical events as a musician herself. More than that though, she just likes having like-minded friends to do activities with.
"With York Singles it's sort of like an extra family to have a group of friends and you go out and you talk," she said.
The group is looking to grow its membership and anyone who fits the criteria of being single and 50 or older is welcome to join. Anyone interested is invited to attend a monthly meeting, which is held on the last Thursday of the month at 7 p.m., to learn more and ask questions about membership.
Those who decide to sign up pay a $20 administrative fee. There is also a $60 annual fee for all members.
York Singles is celebrating its 23 anniversary this year, having started in 1999.