Vital People: 'Lunch Bunch' a hit with Mayne Island seniors

If you are a senior living on Mayne Island, you might have heard about the Mayne Island Seniors Lunch and Social Program — or, as the locals call it, the Lunch Bunch.

Hosted by the Mayne Island Assisted Living Society, the program provides healthy lunches on the first and third Thursday of every month.

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The program targets socially isolated seniors, as well as those who say they are lonely.

It features entertainment by musicians, educational talks, outings and visits from school children.

Jody Waldie, co-chair of the society’s board of directors, said up to 35 seniors take part.

Volunteers help out by driving participants to the lunches, preparing meals and reaching out to seniors.

“If one of the volunteers notices that a senior isn’t at the lunch, they will give the person a check-in call to see if everything is all right,” Waldie said.

Mayne Island, located in the southern Gulf Islands, has a full-time population of just over 1,000. About half of the residents are 65 or older.

The locals tend to get involved and pitch in to help one another. The Mayne Island Assisted Living Society boasts 70 to 80 volunteers infused with a strong sense of purpose.

“At the lunch you can just feel the energy in the room,” Waldie said. “You can hear a happy hum from the crowd.”

She said that the a three-year grant from the Victoria Foundation to fund the program has been a huge help.

“We wouldn’t have been able to continue — or help as many people — without it.”

As there are no senior’s residences on Mayne Island, providing support services for seniors as they age in place is the only solution. For people’s families live off-island.

The free meals encourage social connections and address the social isolation that comes from living alone.

At the event the seniors who no longer drive can always find volunteers willing to transport them off the island for specialist medical and other vital appointments.

While the service fills the needs of seniors now, the hope is that it will grow to be able to justify expanding the service to once a week. That’s a bunch more lunches for Mayne Island seniors.

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— Pedro Arrais

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