CCCA Seniors Committee: A tea party offers a chance to socialize and meet new friends

IMG_9124 Seniors Tea Partyby Stephen Thirlwall

The CCCA Seniors Committee hosted an afternoon drop-in tea party for those residing or working within the Beaver Barracks at Metcalfe and Catherine Streets.

The Barracks is a very clean and well-managed subsidized housing complex operated by Centretown Citizens Ottawa Corporation.

The main emphasis of the committee was reaching out to other seniors, but we also opened the party to anyone else in the building who wished to come. It is important that elders have opportunities to be in the company of those of other ages.

While the committee meets monthly to discuss and learn more about seniors’ issues and write regular articles on them for The Centretown BUZZ, we wanted to do something very hands-on and practical and, hopefully, touch others in the downtown community.

One of the biggest issues that keeps coming up is social isolation and disconnection. So how can we contribute to solutions without a budget, even if our contributions are small-scale and localized? We decided that perhaps a simple tea party in a somewhat controllable space could be the answer.

In our society, there is a large and increasing need for positive social contact in safe environments. This is especially true for seniors. With the deaths of spouses and friends, becoming less mobile, feeling apart from their adult children (who are off doing their own thing), feeling unwelcome in a society that glorifies youthfulness and sees ageing as a disease and, often, with limited money, many seniors become isolated. The traditional family support systems have disintegrated and social services struggle to meet demands.

It is true that some people enjoy being on their own for long periods of time. But even they need support systems in times of crisis (which will come) and at least need occasional contact with others.

The tea party was small, with 20 people attending. We had no idea who or how many would come, but were encouraged as people started arriving. We had set up five large round tables within the Barracks’ large meeting room with tablecloths, napkins and goodies.

The tea party resulted in a few positive developments. It strengthened the ties between those serving on the Seniors Committee, expanded our skills and exposed us to various real needs within the community.

Each of us took on different tasks in the planning and arranging; setup and cleanup; putting up posters and extending invitations; making home baked cookies and cakes; and welcoming and conversing with our guests from the residence, making sure no one was left out.

It also became evident that serving others caused great joy to everyone. Even though many did not know one another before, those who attended were made to feel at home, not threatened or prejudged. When people are treated equally and with friendliness, they begin to share many thoughts and stories instead of just “talking about the weather.” The conversations became meaningful. Most stayed for an hour and a half or more.

There was no agenda other than sharing tea, treats and conversation and getting to know one another. Everyone benefited and was very thankful.

Holding small events like this helps to build friendships, reform community from the ground up and create hope.