By Hannah Bellamy
Despite having successful careers, performing arts professionals often aren’t able to retire with a reasonable pension. High housing costs have driven many of Vancouver’s senior professionals out of the city and away from the community they worked in.
Performing Arts Lodge (PAL) Vancouver is a non-profit with a mission to provide affordable housing for senior artists. The 111-unit residence in downtown Vancouver includes a reading room, a rooftop garden, workshop, and a professionally equipped 150-seat theatre—a venue that has brought the performing arts into the area and ensured that the residents continue leading creative lives.
“I know there are people in this building who were, quite literally, on the streets before PAL Vancouver opened.” – PAL resident John Innes
PAL Theatre is the only live theatre venue in the West End/Coal Harbour area, and performances by professional theatre companies can be enjoyed by PAL residents as well as general theatre audiences. This residence has proved to be a successful model for affordable housing and caring for seniors who are able to live independently. It’s a unique community resource for people who have worked in the performing arts and they can continue practicing their craft and sharing their creativity.
There are also ways for retired performing arts professionals who don’t live at PAL to benefit and stay involved. PAL regularly shares theatre, music, literary, and dance events that are happening at the PAL Studio Theatre via their e-newsletter, Facebook, and Twitter. Another fun way to become part of life at PAL is to join PALS Chorus. This fabulous choir is open to new members living across the Lower Mainland—and of course the theatre is always looking for volunteers.
For many, especially in the arts, continued participation is valuable. It can lead to greater longevity, positive perceptions of an individual’s health, and it enables seniors to live independently longer. PAL is more than a seniors’ home; it is a way to keep seniors involved in the performing arts and engaged in life.
“It’s a community that exists inside a single apartment block, it’s a cool concept.” – PAL resident Paul Beckett
The Fringe and Theatre Wire value PAL’s place in our theatre community. In 2015 we partnered with them, donating all the proceeds from The Fringe Awards Night and asking artists to kick in as well. Sixteen artists donated 3% of the ticket revenue from selected shows. We’ll be partnering again this year so look for more info in the program guide this September!
A special thank you to Karen Woodman at PAL Vancouver for providing insights and facts about the organization and social housing for performing artists. Visit the PAL Studio Theatre this May during the run of 5@50, May 12-28.