SENIORS IN FOCUS: Seniors reaching out to help shed loneliness and isolation

There’s a small group of seniors in Sidney who are reaching out to their peers with hands of friendship

Gillian Else is a long-time member of Sidney Single Seniors 55-plus

There’s a small group of seniors in Sidney who are reaching out to their peers with hands of friendship to help shed loneliness or isolation.

Many of the members of this club have been in the same situation, brought about by the death of a loved one or a move to a new community that meant leaving a lot of friends behind. Gillian Else says this club has been around since 2003 to help create new friendships and prevent people from becoming too lonely.

The Sidney Single Seniors 55-plus club has been flying under the radar for some time now, but with 63 members and a full slate of monthly events, it’s a group that still enjoys each other.

Else, who has been with the club since 2004, says she found the group when she came to Sidney from South Africa and didn’t know a soul here, apart from her daughter. It was her daughter, she says, who mentioned the singles group, so she gave it a try.

Sidney Single Seniors is not about dating, Else says, but a group of friends that enjoy each other’s company and support. They meet three times a week for coffee, she continues, two times a month to play a little golf and to bowl, once a week for a walk, once a month for a club meeting and every so often a lunch or dinner on the town. Plus, she says, they arrange trips all over the Island.

“The club was started in 2003 by Ivy Buchanan,” Else says. “She was a real go-getter and at the heart of many things in the community.”

It began under the auspices of Peninsula Community Services, since renamed to Beacon Community Services. Members first met at the Wakefield Manor but these days use space at the SHOAL Centre on Resthaven Drive. Else says the group is grateful for the work done by BCS staff to facilitate their meetings and club events at SHOAL.

The club was designed as a way for men and women who are bereaved or lonely to get out of the house and meet new people. It’s a supportive, fun environment, Else says, without any pressure that might lead to dates.

That said, she notes some folks have hooked up and got married. Getting hitched, however, means you’re out of the club.

That doesn’t mean friendships are over, she continues. Ex-members are always welcome back to the coffee sessions and friendships continue on outside of the group setting as well.

“We’re all just friends. It has gotten me through some terrible times. I find, just by being with those people, it gets you away from all the drama in your life.”

Else says she hopes more people learn about their group, including medical professionals, and realize it’s one way to help prevent loneliness after major life changes.

To find out more about Sidney Single Seniors 55-plus, contact Beacon Community Services’ SHOAL Centre at 250-656-5537 or go online to