Zone Classifieds The Zoomer Edit The Importance of Your Social Network 

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The Zoomer Edit

The Importance of Your Social Network 

BY Judy Gerstel | February 11th, 2022

Forget the red and pink confections and de rigueur roses. They’re a consumer-driven sideshow to the real message that comes around every Feb. 14: this is a time to celebrate relationships.

Sure, some couples may be moved to declare or affirm their love with chocolate, a fancy dinner or even diamonds. But it’s also an appropriate time to simply appreciate the pleasure of socializing with people you like (whether they’re like you or not).

And for older people, socializing isn’t just a pleasant way to spend time. It’s also crucial for healthy aging. A recent study published in the journal Plos One found that socializing may improve older adults’ cognitive function in daily life. As well, researchers have found that loneliness is just as lethal as smoking 15 cigarettes per day. And, lonely people are 50 per cent more likely to die prematurely than those with healthy social relationships.

Toronto resident Adele Robertson, who is in her 80s, knows about the importance of socializing for older adults. After she retired from a career in advertising followed by a stint as head of corporate fundraising, Robertson served as a board member at Sheridan College’s Elder Research Centre.

“There’s no question that social isolation is very damaging to your health,” she says. Robertson is active in volunteer work and takes part in the Academy for Lifelong Learning. “The social part of it — getting together — has been very important,” she says, about the academy. 

“I was in a workshop on Virginia Woolf with 10 other women and, in addition to peer-to-peer learning about Bloomsbury, we got to be very good friends — to the point where last year when Woolf turned 140 we had a Zoom birthday party for her. Last summer we got together for lunch on a patio.”

The women in the group were between the ages of 62 and 86. “It’s critical as people age to have that kind of social intercourse,” says Robertson. 

Jim Pike, 78, a retired IBM engineer, is a longtime member of the Academy for Lifelong Learning. He appreciates the social aspect “even during the Zoom sessions,” but has been missing the strolls he enjoyed that were organized by the Academy before the pandemic.

“We’d have walks in different parts of Toronto and finish with lunch,” he explains. “Twenty people would show up at a subway stop. The walks were a big part of socializing.”

During the pandemic, he’s been hosting a virtual lunch via Zoom every Tuesday for six or seven guys. “Prior to the pandemic, we’d meet for lunch every six weeks and shoot the breeze about baseball and politics.” he says, adding, “I’m certainly not isolated and I plan not to be isolated.”

While both Pike and Robertson highly recommend the Academy as a way for seniors to socialize as they participate in peer-to-peer learning, Robertson has also found volunteering to be a gratifying way of socializing. She’s served on many boards and committees including UNICEF, the Jazz Performance and Education Centre and Youth Without Shelter. She also suggests finding volunteer opportunities at Volunteer Toronto (or similar sites for other geographical areas including, for example, Volunteer Barrie) at Charity Village, or at

Among current opportunities for socializing:

Reception Volunteers, The Textile Museum of Canada 

Director at Large, High Park Nature Centre 

Board Director, Concerts in Care

Wildlife Nursery Assistant (Rouge Park)

National Bank Open by Rogers Tennis Tournament Volunteers

Board Members, Spelling Bee of Canada

Also, among many groups for active older adults is Seniors For Nature Outdoor Club. The membership fee is $35. Activities, “offered at a variety of levels to suit members from across the GTA and beyond who are mostly over 55 years of age, include canoeing/kayaking, cycling, hiking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, contemplative outings, and socializing.”

As well, seniors who are mobile might consider attending events and activities at community seniors’ centres, including the North York Seniors Centre and others in the Toronto area listed on the Toronto Central Health Line.

Even older people who are isolated at home can find a way to socialize through organizations that provide friendly visiting and phone calls from volunteers, including Circle of Care and others listed on the Toronto Central Health Line.                           

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