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Who Would Be On Your List of Eight?

Who Would Be On Your List of Eight?

By Nancy Angus

It was over 50 years ago when Paul McCartney sang “Eleanor Rigby” with the Beatles.

We all felt for Eleanor, this fictional character that he described so eloquently.

Today, we all know “Eleanor Rigbys” – people who are all alone on their islands of isolation. Loneliness is a social epidemic.  How can that be when we all supposedly have hundreds of “friends” through our social media network? 

So in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada, a group came together to address social isolation for seniors. 

Thunder Bay has one of the highest per capita rates of people aged 65+ in Ontario.  Through the power of digital storytelling our group of ten “GIANTs” (Grand Individuals Aging with Neighbours in Thunder Bay) shared their thoughts on how to age in their homes and neighborhoods.

One particular focus was how to reach out to neighbors and other community members.

John Cosgrove, a retired social worker and GIANT, wove a slogan into his digital story about building a community or a team to help you live at home longer and stronger.  He remembers attending a conference years ago where one speaker said, “If you’re NOT connected to EIGHT people, go get them.”

This concept and the urgency it conveyed resonated with John and something that he is actively embracing as he ages.  The others in our storytelling team also enthusiastically adopted this concept.

With the help of our Thunder Bay District Health Unit, a laminated, fridge-friendly card was produced.  It encouraged people of all ages to write the names and phone numbers of their own EIGHT.  It was important that folks realized that connecting with your EIGHT wasn’t just a one-way street.

They were always encouraged to do something for your eight as well – maybe something as simple as a phone call once a month or an offer to walk a dog.

This EIGHT or “Home to Stay” team could be made up of family, friends, coffee buddies, hockey teammates, church drivers, trusted handyperson or a volunteer coordinator.

People are encouraged to start young to cultivate this team.  When getting older, some people may find it harder to get out of the house so this EIGHT can be a lifeline.  It can also give someone a purpose to their life. Everyone, no matter their age, needs a purpose to feel connected and appreciated.   

My EIGHT works.

Our GIANTs came together as strangers and left the project as friends.  Some of them now have numbers of others in the group on their MY EIGHT card.   

So, who would be on your list of eight today?

If you don’t know – start to find them now. Because there is some truth to what the Beatles said. “I’ll get by with a little help from my friends.” 

Nancy Angus was project lead for Age Friendly GIANTs, a project of Age Friendly Thunder Bay (www.agefriendlythunderbay.ca) supported by the Government of Canada’s New Horizons for Seniors Program (NHSP). Nancy specializes in storytelling and sharing with a focus on aging creatively. She is a speaker, writer, workshop facilitator and walker.  You can contact Nancy at nangus500@gmail.com


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