Winnipeggers combat Loneliness

At least 20 seniors plucked and strummed ukuleles as they belted out song after song in a small back room in the Bronx Park Community Centre – all this to fight loneliness.

On Thursday morning, these seniors got together for the Good Neighbours Active Living Centre ukulele club. This program is one of 53 programs at the centre that combats the loneliness of seniors.

This isolation is growing in Canada. Seniors are most at risk. At least 19 per cent of Canadians over the age of 65 felt a lack of companionship, left out, or isolated from others, according to Statistics Canada report.

“When I retired, which is already 10 years, you start to look for things to fill your time,” said Jo-Anne Habinski, a ukulele club member of four years. “It’s fun. That’s basically it. If it’s not fun, I don’t want to do it.”

Habinski said she joined the club after her husband died four years ago. There was a hole left in her life she said, this ukulele club was an opportunity to get out of the house, have fun, and spend time with other people. Habinski said she now practically lives at the centre.

“How can you not smile when you hear this?” Habinski said.

The problem of loneliness is not limited to seniors. An increasing number of Canadians of all ages have said they feel alone. This may be because 28 per cent of Canadians are living alone, Statistics Canada speculates.
Gen Kelsang Rigden leads a meditation class, Illusions of Loneliness, at the Kadampa Meditation Centre in Winnipeg.
While getting out and about is one way of dealing with loneliness, a Winnipeg Buddhist Nun is advocating for another way – spending time alone.

“We think (loneliness) is coming from our external world – either people shutting us out, or leaving us,” said Gen Kelsang Rigden, who runs the “Illusion of Loneliness” at the Kadampa Meditation Centre Winnipeg. “We call that the self-cherishing mind, and that mind is created from ourselves.”

Rigden said that once people can identify and understand the root of loneliness, they can control it through meditation.

She uses a Black and White method of mediation to deal with loneliness. All the bad thoughts and feelings are inhaled, using a mental picture of smoke. Rigden said to then exhale those thoughts as light.

Rigden’s mediation class is open throughout the week and is open to all ages.

Loneliness is increasing in Canada, especially among seniors. These Winnipeggers show different ways they combat this isolation.