Come, you need a tea
I just had a most pleasant experience and I wanted to share it with others, particularly those who might be lonely or a little trepidatious about going into group settings. As many of you may remember, I went through some mental health challenges last fall. For any readers who are going through similar circumstances, I might have a small but effective way of coping.
On Monday, I attended the first of a number of free Communi-TEA events – (come, you need a tea?) – at the seniors centre. Communi-TEAs are funded by a $10,000 grant from the province, with other funding coming from Uxbridge’s Age Friendly Committee. On the face of it, attending a talk on aging might seem low on your list of priorities, but, as with food, presentation is everything. About 40 people, the majority of them in their senior years, sat at tables covered with lacy tablecloths, surrounded by ferns and shrubs, with red, white and yellow tulips on every table. It was as close as you could get to a tea room without actually being in a tea room.
Tea, coffee, scones and a variety of dessert items were served up by members of the USS culinary arts program and there was plenty for all. The whole program was put together by recreation co-ordinators Hunter Jarvis and Rebecca Harmon. While waiting for speaker Dr. Carlye Jensen to begin her topic, those assembled at the tables chatted back and forth.
In her talk, Dr. Jensen perhaps surprised everyone by revealing the most important requirement for living longer and healthier is social integration. Next was close relationships. They even topped quitting smoking and taking exercise. And during her talk, the attendees all became unwitting – (at least momentarily) – examples of social integration at work. At various points, Dr. Jensen had her audience using playing cards, dice and cue cards to make her points and to also hand out winning chocolate bars. But during these processes, everyone at every table automatically became involved in discussing their dice rolls or their poker hands. In other words, social integration in action.
During my crisis last year I shunned being in groups or gatherings with people I didn’t know as much as possible. But I realized I had to force myself into these situations if I was going to avoid falling deeper into despair. However, the Communi-TEA event, something I went to as a reporter, turned out to be a delight with a couple of unexpected surprises. I quit being a reporter and became a participant. I saw people I knew from years ago, which opened up the possibility of conversations. I even met a chap I had worked with over 40 years ago at The Canadian Press. He now lives in Uxbridge and I didn’t know it until Monday.
Although the Communi-TEA program was meant to have 12 such sessions, they have had to be reduced to six because the province set a time limit on when the funds they provided could be used. If the success of the first session is matched in upcoming talks, I’d expect MPP Peter Bethlenfalvy to show up again later this year with another grant to move the program into a second year.
The next tea time is at 2 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 27. There is a 50-person limit and pre-registration at Uxpool is strongly recommended. Having been there, however, I know how difficult even that small effort can be for people who are depressed, lonely or sad. If you are one of those unseen people, please make the effort. I promise to be there and I’ll talk to anyone about anything.
It seems to me that, as I discovered, just talking to someone can be the first step on the road to becoming socially integrated. You might even have a good time.
Tell me, am I wrong?
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