To call Dawn Lindenberg’s life interesting would be an understatement. As a retired educator who has travelled the world, Dawn has been there and done that. During the course of her long career, the former Ross Shepherd High School teacher had developed a vast network of contacts in the field of education. All was going well until one critical life juncture–retirement.
“I was really floundering for a while because I did not have a lot of contacts outside of school people,” says Dawn who found her social network dwindling. “Once I had retired, I found that the school people had scattered far and wide. They had left town, gone somewhere. I knew not where in many cases, so I lost those contacts for the most part.”
During a routine trip to her doctor, Dawn was informed of “Seniors’ Centre Without Walls”, a phone program offered through the Edmonton Southside Primary Care Network. The program was made possible with funding through the Federal Government’s New Horizon’s for Seniors Program and was an initiative of the Pan-Edmonton Group Addressing Social Isolation in Seniors–or “PEGASIS”.
“I found there a very congenial group of people who were in much the same boat that I was,” says Dawn. It didn’t take long for Dawn to become a regular on the program, taking part in activities including coffee chats, storytelling, and armchair travels, and more.
The Seniors’ Centre Without Walls program also connected to Dawn to other resources offered at the PCN. During one telephone program, a PCN staff member presented about a program called Changeways, a support program offered at the centre. Seeking additional social supports, Dawn
resolved that she would try out the program.
The Changeways program had scarcely began and the amiable Dawn already started forging new friendships. When the program ended, Dawn and her newfound friends resolved to continue meeting and formed a brunch group. On the last Thursday of each month, the ladies started meeting at the local Denny’s to catch up.
“A few of us made a date, basically, to get together for a lunch one day and talk. And that worked out just tickety boo,” says Dawn. “So, we made another date, and we just kept going, because we all enjoyed each other’s tales of woe or winning. Whatever there was to talk about that day, that’s the menu for the day.”
One of Dawn’s new friends, a woman named Kay, affirms the group’s value in offering camaraderie and providing a space to share peer-to-peer. “I think a lot of doctors, until you reach our age, don’t really understand,” says Kay. “I mean, they’ve studied it, but until you’ve gone through it, I don’t think you know.”
During the brunch meetups, the ladies talk about all sorts of things ranging from current events to health tips. In times of need, the group also supports one another so each member remains actively connected to the community. When Dawn lost her primary mode of transportation after her truck was broadsided last winter, she looked to her new group of friends in order to stay connected.
Dawn continues to participate in Seniors’ Centre Without Walls and plans to present on an upcoming “Armchair Travels” series, where she will captivate the imaginations of other participants with her tales of past adventure, such as traversing China’s Yangtze River by boat.
“I require contact with people to keep my head on straight,” says Dawn. “I seem to require people as an absolute must in my life.”
Like Dawn, many Edmonton seniors contend with major life transitions and as a community, it is our collective responsibility to support them and ensure they remain connected. Throughout their lives, Edmonton’s seniors have made priceless contributions to the economy and their influence is woven throughout our city’s social fabric. We can continue to benefit from the perspectives of our seniors when they have opportunities to share their wisdom through inclusion in the wider community. Edmonton will be richer for it.