Building seniors’ sense of belonging

Ann has spent much of her adult life making her city a better place to live.
Three years ago, she started volunteering with a local community association that puts together a free monthly breakfast for seniors. Over a hundred seniors show up every month.

For some seniors, the Thursday breakfast is the only social interaction they have.

“It’s a very difficult subject, the isolation of seniors, because you don’t know who’s out there. And if you don’t know who’s out there, you can’t do anything about it.”

Ann says some people choose to be isolated, but others are too afraid to ask for help.

“They think that if they ask for help then they have a problem. But I just want to make them aware that all they have to do is ask, ‘Could you help me please?’”

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The level of noise in the room is incredible. They come in and they start chatting with their friends and they don’t want to leave. It’s such a great, positive feeling. It really makes you feel good.

There are many resources available for seniors, but reaching some seniors is hard. Poverty, Ann says, often plays a key role in senior isolation.

“Poverty and isolation go hand in hand. When you live in poverty, you aren’t always able to find all the support and agencies that are out there. In the old days, you would go to one agency, and then you would have to go to another. This would make things even harder.”

People with stronger social connections have a 50% increased chance of a longer life.
1 in 4 seniors don’t feel they belong in their local community.

Today, she says, the situation is better, thanks to organizations like United Way.

“United Way does an incredible job of tying agencies together. It ensures that agencies work together so that people don’t get lost, or fall through the cracks.”

For Ann, reaching the isolated seniors and ensuring they feel a sense of belonging is what keeps her coming back. But she is reluctant to take any credit for the hundreds of happy voices that fill the community hall every Thursday morning.

“It’s the community association that puts this work on, I’m just a part of it. I just belong to a group of people that are trying to make life just a little bit better for everybody. I think that everybody wants to leave this world a better place than what they found it,” she says.

“That’s really what we’re all about as human beings, isn’t it? We all want to belong.”

A photo of Ann in the library.

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