>> Pierre-Yves, 73, watchful neighbour and walking library on 1960s and 1970s Montréal
>> Antoinette, 84, and Monique, 70, intrepid explorers of the STM network
>> Desneiges, 65, caregiver, panelist on her experience with Alzheimer’s disease
>> Mariette, 68, choir singer and self-trained computer technician via Zoom
>> Michèle, 80, manager of a shelter for stray animals
>> Jacqueline, 69, supportive grandmother in a multigenerational home
>> Céline, 72, contract-based university lecturer in education
>> Jean, 82, volunteer for Medhi, 86, calling him every week since March 2019
>> Louise, 72, director of a socially conscious theatre troupe
>> Henri, 95, amateur genealogist, who scans, conserves, and circulates family history via email
We met with, encountered, and contacted these people in 2021, and International Seniors Day celebrates their engagement.
One could wonder what brought us together, despite differences in generations and activities. It was through neighbourhoods, families, and shared interests, but primarily, through our professional collaborations.
The lives of these 10 seniors show that social participation can take a range of forms: from connections in the community through neighbours or volunteering, to citizen engagement for the advocacy of rights, as well as maintaining or developing professional activities (to find out more about this, you can join our next pop-up webinar for October 2021 on the meaning of work among seniors).
Sometimes, seniors aren’t even aware of all the activities and relationships they are involved in and their impact on society. Social participation among seniors should be seen in its plurality and richness, keeping in mind that every initiative counts.
Yet our perceptions are often biased by our expectations, and ageist stereotypes (for more on this, see our article “Combatting ageism”) that exist in society prompt us to think about aging and retirement as a necessary withdrawal, a period of decline, solitude, and isolation. These are all risk factors for isolation and psychological distress among seniors.
One of the keys to aging happily is investing your time in meaningful, enjoyable activities and projects. (Bouffard, 2012)
It is the goinq-towards that matters, not the destination.– Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Because at any age, our activities help build meaning in our lives, because participating also means increasing a sense of belonging and accomplishment, and community involvement promotes meaningful relationships, which leads to positive emotions. As such, social participation, or “a person’s involvement in activities that generate interaction with others in the community” (Levasseur et al., 2010) fosters well-being and therefore good mental health (Chen et al., 2019).
On this October 1, 2021, the CMHA-Montréal invites you to celebrate efforts by seniors in your world, to name your role models for aging, and to promote the great initiatives that solicit social participation among seniors.
Aging also creates challenges with, on the one hand, reorganizing lives and social networks and, on the other, ageism; however, this time of life is also one in which we get to know ourselves better and continue to take risks.
Some great initiatives:
– Balado Ancr’Âge https://ancragetravail.podbean.com/#:~:text=%C3%80%2088%20ans%2C%20M
– Un et un font 1000 https://www.forum-habitats.com/
– Culture for Seniors https://cultureauxaines.ca/en/
– Mûr.e.s pour entreprendre https://murpourentreprendre.org/en/
– Réseau de l’action bénévole du Québec (RABQ) – 15 bonnes raisons de faire du bénévolat
Canadian Mental Health Association – Montréal
-> Apprivoiser sa solitude et développer son réseau (available in French only)
-> Aging in good mental health training (available in French only)
Chen, Y.-C. Putnam, M. Lee, Y.S. and Morrow-Howell, N. (2019). Activity Patterns and Health Outcomes in Later Life: The Role of Nature of Engagement. The Gerontologist, 59(4), 698–708,
Bouchard, L. (2012). Le bonheur de vieillir: une approche “positive” du vieillissement. Pratiques psychologiques 18 (2012) 161–169.
Levasseur M, Richard L, Gauvin L, Raymond É. Inventory and analysis of definitions of social participation found in the aging literature: Toward a taxonomy of social participation. Soc Sci Med. 2010;71(12):2141–9.
Pâris, M. (February 2021) L’importance d’établir des relations significatives. Le Devoir. https://www.ledevoir.com/societe/sante/595392/participation-sociale-etablir-des-relations-significatives