Older men reaching out to their peers
THE Older Men’s Network (TOMNET) is a not-for-profit group, established in Toowoomba in 2001.
It aims to offer a range of support services for older men in regional, rural and remote locations in South West Queensland.
These men are not necessarily accustomed to reaching out for help. However, many men in this age group can find themselves “at risk” when life issues such as the death of a spouse, retirement or the onset of illness slowly get on top of them.
Based upon a model of peer support – older men supporting older men – the organisation is all about helping individuals to meaningfully reconnect with social networks, re-engage with the wider community, then pay the favour forward by reaching out to other men who may be in the same predicament.
TOMNET Toowoomba general manger, Louise Adcock, said:
“A lot of the blokes that come in the door come in with a significant issue they are dealing with.”
Many are reticent at first to open up about their worries, fears and emotions, but when others begin to share their own life stories – the emotional highs and lows – a recognition of themselves in the experiences of others helps to kick-start a transformation. Ms Adcock said that by: “demonstrating that it is okay to share [members] start telling each other stuff they’ve never told anyone”, often leading to a volcanic-like purging of long-suppressed detail.”
TOMNET operates a Community Care program through which TOMNET member volunteers actively seek out and help others.
This may be in the form of visits to private homes or aged care facilities for some meaningful conversation with otherwise isolated individuals or through the manning of a telephone support system.
In recent times, some members have taken part in mentoring programs with local teenagers, being both a sounding board and a source of non-judgemental wisdom.
Statistically, the five years immediately following retirement is a difficult time for men.
Having long been defined and given importance by their job role, the sudden “relevancy deficit” that many experience can be difficult to cope with.
Many people are financially prepared for this part of their life thanks to the proliferation of superannuation seminars on offer, but emotionally, many have no idea about what is about to “hit” them.
Recognising this, TOMNET is about to roll out a series of seminars addressing issues such as what will retirement be like, what will change, what will be missed and what can be done to make these changes easier.
Nowadays, retirees have a good twenty years to positively contribute to the community and enjoy a fulfilling life, so nipping potential problems in the bud before they escalate is a proactive approach.
TOMNET members come from all walks of life and the environment at weekly get-togethers is non-confrontational and supportive.