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We often hear that Canberra can be a tough place to find a social network. So what happens when you get older? Communities at Work’s Seniors Social Groups make finding your people easy at any age.
Most of us have a specific something on every week that we pencil in without fail, look forward to, and then go to great lengths to ensure we don’t miss it. It might be a catch up with friends, a social sport, time set aside for a hobby, or even a favourite TV show.
For locals Maria Polmeer and Jenny Murdoch, their must-do activity each week is heading along to a session at Communities at Work’s Seniors Social Groups.
While you may know Communities at Work for their early childhood education offering, the not-for-profit community organisation also offers a variety of programs and activities for seniors. The programs are run out of their seniors’ centres in Ngunnawal and Holder and are designed to support wellness and continued independence for older people while fostering social connectedness and good health outcomes as they continue to live at home.
The programs include a wide range of activities, from gentle exercises and interesting outings to guest speakers and fun activities in the centres, like woodwork, arts and craft and games. All activities are designed as a great way to develop friendships and maintain health and wellness.
Health and wellness are what prompted Maria to sign up for the organisation’s seniors programs, and she attends the ‘Healthy Living’ group at Holder every Thursday. Each week includes a session of chair yoga, and then a dietitian chats about topics such as healthy eating or how to grow vegetables at home and prepares a healthy lunch for the group to enjoy together. Maria not only loves the social catch up and the meals, but it’s even changed what she eats at home.
“One week we learned about avocados and how very good they are, far beyond what you hear ordinarily. And then as a demonstration, the facilitator made what we thought was chocolate mousse. And it was all made with avocado and cocoa and a teeny bit of maple syrup. It was marvellous. I’ve eaten more avocado since then—it was a bit of a neglected food for me,” says Maria.
Maria is semi-retired and says the groups have been important to ensure she stays socially connected.
“I used to think this sort of thing was a bit geriatric for me because I’m 79, yet youthful. But I don’t think that now. The four people I have the best time with [at the group] are 91, and they’re really nice people, and interesting too,” she says.
Jenny also attends a Healthy Living Seniors Group every week, but in Ngunnawal, and has been going along for a couple of years. She found out about the group from a friend and quickly discovered it became an important part of her routine after she retired.
Like Maria, Jenny is interested in health and fitness, and loves the chair yoga sessions, learning about nutrition, and tucking into a healthy lunch.
“I get a lot out of it. Before I’d done a lot of water aerobics and all those sorts of things, and always exercised to fit in with working, up until a couple of years ago. So, I enjoy having yoga every Tuesday morning,” she says.
She’s also recently enjoyed day trips with the group to the Arboretum, and the Seniors Expo.
“The group we have has really become quite like a bit of a family because everybody loves it. I don’t like missing it and I look forward to meeting everyone every week.”
Other Communities at Work Seniors Social Groups currently running include a woodwork group, a men’s business group, a creative projects group, and a fun and games group with activities ranging from trivia and bingo through to bowling. While the themes stay the same, each month there’s a new program calendar with a range of different activities for each group, which is updated regularly on the Communities at Work website.
For those who are aged 65 or older, or Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander peoples aged 50 or older, registered through My Aged Care, the Communities at Work Seniors Social Groups programs are available under the Commonwealth Home Support Program. They are also open to those aged 50-65 for a nominal fee based on the group you participate in. To make sure everyone can access the program, Communities at Work also offers transport to and from the groups for those who need it.