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Special week to help isolated seniors

By Robin Dudgeon, Portage Daily Graphic

Social isolation is a problem faced by many senior citizens in Manitoba and across the country; one Plumas woman is hoping to change that by implementing Let No One Be Alone Week from May 6 to 12.

Brenda Tonn, co-ordinator at Plumas Senior Support Services, has gathered over 50 community groups and associations from across Manitoba to participate in the week. The list includes Provincial organizations like Long Term and Continuing Care, the Regional Health Authority -- Central Manitoba Inc., and fellow Senior Support Service coordinators from as far away as Thompson and The Pas.

"It's just been overwhelming. There's been over 50 different places who are networking with other places so it's sort of spreading really quickly, which is awesome," said Tonn.

The week is about taking the time to make contact with someone who lives alone whether it be just a phone call, or inviting them out to an event.

"The week of awareness is about not so much grand events or grand gestures, it's about bringing awareness to social isolation of seniors. It's a leading cause of death in seniors," said Tonn.

Loneliness and social isolation can result in increased rates of premature death, lower general well-being, more depression, and a higher level of disability from chronic diseases.

"If people took the time to care a little bit more, it goes a long way to the wellbeing of a person. People can help by taking the time to phone a grandma or grandpa, bake goodies, include someone that they know is living alone in a social event," said Tonn.

There will be a number of events during the week. Meals on Wheels program in Plumas is offering seniors a few new options.

"Instead of having the meals delivered to their houses, I'm offering them a ride to come in and socialize with people instead of having their meal at home by themselves," said Tonn.

There will also be a kick-off barbecue in Plumas on May 6 at the Seniors Drop-In Centre from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. with the support of the Plumas Lions Club, the Seniors Support Services board, and the United Church Women.

William Morton Collegiate in Gladstone will be hosting a tea in support of the week on May 11. A group of students will be taking tea with seniors to give them a chance to socialize and play games like cards with them.

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