Gwen Stone has always described herself as "very much a social person". At 90 years old she recognises that many people her age feel lonely, but with the company she keeps Gwen is rather the opposite, saying “ actually there’s times I’d like more time to myself”. Just about every day of the week Gwen will have something planned to get her out of the house, whether it is catching up with friends, going on outings with a local seniors group, or just walking down to the shops, she can seldom be caught at home.
Picture description: Gwen Stone celebrating her 90th birthday in December 2018, surrounded by seventy of her closest friends and family.
Each week Gwen attends a range of regular events as well as her own organised catch ups. Tuesdays are dedicated to her Selwyn get-togethers, Wednesdays begin with a trip to her community Church service, Thursdays are set aside for getting her chores and house work done, and on Fridays she walks down to the local shops, and taxis home with her weekly groceries. Once a month she goes on outings with a local senior citizens group, which she says has given her the chance to see some great speakers, and have some marvellous home baked morning teas. In between her staple activities she also likes to spend time with family and friends, catch up with the girls she used to work with when she was younger, and have people over for afternoon tea. With everything she does Gwen says “my kids reckon I have more of a social life than they do!”
She credits many of her social connections to the groups she is involved in. At the age of 20 she joined the local ‘Young Wives Club’. Her involvement in this social group allowed her to make close friendships with similar women in her community who she still spends time with today. In recent years she says the club has disbanded and become more of a singles group as they feel the term ‘Young Wives’ doesn’t quite suit them anymore. However the women still get together for tea and a catch up when they can.
Her passion for social connection led her to join her local Selwyn Centre too. After seeing it advertised she thought she would enjoy adding another weekly activity to her busy social calendar. Selwyn Centres facilitate weekly get-togethers for over 65s that offer the opportunity for gentle group exercise, games, and tea with friends both old and new. In the 4 years Gwen has attended the Selwyn Centre she has made many meaningful new connections, she says she is “at an age where friends pass away, but you’re meeting others”. Now she spends every Tuesday with the friends she has made through the Selwyn Centre.
Gwen is also lucky to have a large family who she spends time with when she isn’t out socialising. With 2 children, 6 grandchildren, 5 great-grandchildren, with another on the way later this year, and not to mention her close knit extended network of family and their partners, there’s never a lack of family dinners and events to attend.
While Gwen is lucky to have such a busy and engaging social life, she recognises that many people her age are not so fortunate and become quite lonely. Through the groups she has participated in she has met several people like this. One friend she has made through her senior citizens outings calls her from time to time, and while he enjoys to joke around, she thinks he is actually quite lonely. For some people being as social as Gwen isn’t always easy, but she is of course always happy to talk to whoever calls her. There are many complaints among her family about how the phone at her house is always engaged! She enjoys meeting new and original people, spending quality time with old friends, and knows the benefits of social connection for keeping her and her brain active. Gwen has always been a social person, and now going into her nineties she feels she may have to slow down a bit, but still intends on upholding those valuable social connections she has made.
You are never too old to meet new people, and make new connections, and Gwen is clearly a testament to that! Perhaps there is a Gwen just waiting to meet you in your community. Selwyn Centres can be found in Northland, Auckland, Waikato, and Christchurch, and provide a great opportunity to meet new people and build your social connections. Many people of all ages also volunteer up their time on Mycare as companions who are happy to help you get out to social events, or spend quality time with you in your home. There are a range of ways to reach out and become socially connected in older age and we are always keen to enable these opportunities for our Mycare community.
Feel free to give Mycare a call on 00800 677 700 if you want some support in finding local community groups or companions. If you want to look for a companion or advertise yourself as a community companion through Mycare sign up here, and check out your local Selwyn Centres here.