My social connections


I’ve always been self-sufficient: my own tools, my own equipment, and my own approach to solving problems – everything from well pumps to wireless Internet. But when I hit my mid-sixties, I realized something, and it’s this: If I want to be able to stay out here, in my homestead, on my land, as I get older, I’ll have to reach out to my neighbours – or as my nephew likes to say, do some social networking. Here comes my friend Jacques. We’re going to run a couple of errands and grab a coffee – our Wednesday routine. In rural Canada, your neighbour isn’t ten feet away. He or she might live a few kilometres away, just down the road. By the way, I still drive, but as my eyesight changes, I may have to stop driving a bit sooner than what I had once hoped. So I plan!! Friends like Jacques, and some of my nieces and nephews will be a very important part of my social network if I want to be able to participate in the community and if I want to get to things like medical appointments, too. First, we’re going to drop in to see Al. He’s in his seventies, and he’s still staying on his farm, although it’s becoming more of a challenge. Al has always been involved with his service club, and he’s quietly helped people out his whole adult life. Now that he’s older, people are helping Al out at key times of the farm like haying and calving, and by persuading him to come to meetings and stay in touch. He wants to live out his life on the farm. It’s been his wish his whole life, he says, and I know Al – he’s realistic and practical. He has a cell phone now just for emergencies so his nieces and nephews can talk to him. He’s cut the size of his herd down, and leased out a lot of his land to neighbours, who he knows will look after it. Al said to me a couple of weeks ago, “If I didn’t keep half a dozen cows around, I’d forget to get up in the morning.” Al knows that you need to have a reason to keep going, and a series of realistic goals too. Here are the things I need to remember, and so should you: Whether it’s curling with old friends, going to the hockey game, or being part of a club, your social network is more important every day as you get older. Invest in it and value it. Your transportation and mobility are things you need to continually assess, because without them, your choices can be limited. Your friends are aging too… so your kids, grandkids, nieces, nephews, younger neighbours and younger people in your community are just as important… in your network. Okay. We’re going in to grab a cup of coffee and see who’s around. You know, at the end of the day, this is how rural Canada has always been: we look after each other and we stay in touch. It’s a matter of quality of life. And it’s worth it!

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