Targeting Isolation talked to Brenda Tonn about the “The Let No One Be Alone” Campaign. Here is what she had to say...
->>The Let no One Be Alone Campaign was launched by Brenda Tonn while she was a Senior Resource Coordinator in rural Manitoba. She launched it to raise awareness of socially isolated adults and galvanize events and programming to address social isolation in Manitoba.
->>Resource Coordinators are embedded in cities and communities across Manitoba and their role is to help link older adults to community supports. For more information and to find your local Senior Resource Coordinator, download the latest Manitoba Seniors Guide. See p. 9 for the list of Resource Coordinators:
"If this campaign can help just one person reach out for help or motivate someone to connect with another person, it will be a success. Ultimately, my goal is to assist in creating a culture of connection in communities - where all people feel supported."
Targeting Isolation in Manitoba (TIMA): Please introduce yourself and tell me about your time spent as a Resource Coordinator
Brenda Tonn: My name is Brenda Tonn and I was a Resource Coordinator in rural MB. I’ve always had a soft spot for older adults and I think that is partially influenced by how close I was with all my grandparents - I was fortunate to know many.
"It can be difficult for those who are lonely or isolated to take the first step towards connection."
TIMA: What is the Let No One Be Alone campaign and how did it come about?
Brenda Tonn: This week of awareness started in 2012. It actually came about quite comically during a restless night of sleep due to my husband's snoring. I had recently attended a gratitude conference, so I decided I’d put it to practice. Despite the snoring, I thought about how grateful I was to have someone sleeping beside me. I then started thinking about all the people that were alone, wondering what I could do to help alleviate loneliness. I figured I had a great network of Resource Coordinators across the province that could be utilized to make a difference. I didn’t sleep much the rest of the night because I was so excited about creating a week of awareness - Let No One be Alone - a time to recognize people that are living alone and finding ways to help them. As soon as I got to work I sent out an e-mail and I got such a great response from my fellow Resource Coordinators. In the first year I had approximately 50 organizations participate in the campaign.
"Many Resource Coordinators continue to advocate for this important cause by organizing special gatherings and events."
TIMA: What are communities doing currently with the Let NO One Be Alone campaign?
Brenda Tonn: I keep it alive by reminding people that the week is coming up and I send out examples and I try and keep a Facebook page updated as best I can. I've created a logo with the help of the Manitoba Association of Senior Communities and they support my time in creating a newsletter for the Let No One Be Alone Campaign. Many Resource Coordinators continue to advocate for this important cause by organizing special gatherings and events. These events are aimed at raising awareness and include initiatives such as sponsored coffee and coffee cups, special teas, potlucks, and barbecues. In partnership with a local florist, one project even created bouquets of flowers in coffee cups that could be sponsored and delivered to those living alone. It truly takes a village to combat social isolation. We all have a part to play in making a difference. Though this week of awareness is in May - it serves as a reminder to reach out all year long! Now is always a good time to connect.
TIMA: Why do you think it is important to have campaigns like this?
Brenda Tonn: Well, for one thing, I don’t know if people are fully aware of the importance of social participation and connection and that is a huge determinant of one's health. As someone who has recognized the power of socialization, I want to spread this message far and wide. If this campaign can help just one person reach out for help or motivate someone to connect with another person, it will be a success. Ultimately, my goal is to assist in creating a culture of connection in communities - where all people feel supported.
"Two minutes of your time can bring happiness to a lonely person for an entire day."
TIMA: What do you believe are the TOP 3 ways older adults can get involved within their community?
Brenda Tonn: It can be difficult for those who are lonely or isolated to take the first step towards connection. Loneliness is an epidemic - the irony is that people are not alone when it comes to being lonely! So it is important to remember that there is no shame in being lonely - don't be afraid to reach out for help and support.
To help people connect and get involved, I highly recommend that any senior serving organization have a “welcome plan.” It is so important that if someone actually takes the steps to become involved in their community, that they feel welcome. The warmth of a welcome is going to make all the difference in the world. A positive reception can make a significant, positive impact for someone who is lonely or isolated.
Lastly, when reaching out to someone who may not be receptive to getting involved, it's important to leave the door open for future opportunities. Acknowledge that it may not be the right time for them, but suggest re-connecting in the future to see if their interest has changed. Never close the door on the relationship.
TIMA: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Brenda Tonn: Remember this: Two minutes of your time can bring happiness to a lonely person for an entire day. This thought has always stuck with me and serves as a powerful reminder that we all have the ability to make a difference in someone's life.
If you would like to know more information about the Let No One Be Alone Campaign you can visit the Facebook page at…