'Let No One Be Alone' encourages Manitobans to reach out to seniors
35.9% of Manitobans over the age of 65 reported that they were lonely
"Let no one be alone" is the theme of the week for seniors' co-ordinators across Manitoba this week.
The initiative, running from May 3 to 9, was started by Brenda Tonn, a social co-ordinator at Plumas Senior Support Services. It is in its fourth year and serves as a reminder that social isolation is a significant health concern in for seniors.
"With loneliness comes depression, poor mental health, poor physical health. And a lot of the time, people are isolated for a number of reasons whether it is no family, no transportation, no social connectedness, or if they have a low self-esteem, they aren't as willing to go out," Tonn told CBC's Radio Noon.
An end to a vicious cycle
Being socially isolated can lead to other "negative health behaviours" such as drinking, smoking, less active lifestyles and poor eating habits, according to Canada's National Seniors Council. Socially-isolated seniors are also four to five times more likely to be hospitalized.
These health factors often lead to further isolation, a vicious cycle.
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According to the Profile of Manitoba Seniors, published in 2010, 35.9 per cent of Manitobans over the age of 65 reported that they were lonely. Manitobans older than 75 were more likely to call themselves lonely, and women were more likely to report feelings of loneliness than men.
With that research in mind, Tonn brought the initiative to her co-workers spread across the province.
"They took the initiative and ran with it. A great group of people," Tonn said.
Tonn says the co-ordinators arrange a wide variety of events including teas, volunteer phone programs, dinners, entertainment, and for each event they offer transportation.
'A charity of time'
The idea came to Tonn one night when she couldn't sleep. As she laid awake, she said her husband rolled over and let out a snore. And yet she realized how thankful she was to have someone there for her, which got her to thinking about all the people who didn't.
"I encourage anybody who hears about it to pick up the phone and call your grandma, bake a goody basket for your neighbour that's alone. It's something that is a charity of time, it doesn't cost anything," she said.
"I just want people to take the time, maybe educate themselves on the impact of being socially isolated and then maybe put some goals together about staying connected with family, friends and neighbours, so that not just this week but all year long, someone is not alone."
To find out more about Let No One Be Alone, visit their Facebook page.