New Echuca library groups foster socialisation

By Ivy Jensen

RETIREE Irene Barber has been too uncomfortable to go out and socialise on her own.

That was until the Echuca grandmother discovered a new group that has started meeting at the Echuca library every week.

The social afternoon for people over 55, held from 1 pm every Monday, is an informal weekly get-together where people can drop in and enjoy a cuppa and a chat, while meeting new friends.

“I've been to two sessions and I already know six ladies from here and four from tai chi which I learnt about from them,” Irene said.

“The library is a great outlet for things like this.”

Having moved to Echuca five years ago, Irene said she couldn't find any groups for people aged between 55 and 70.

“I saw this advertised and I thought it sounded great,” she said.

“I don't know a lot of people here and I was looking to meet more ladies but I haven't had the gumption to go to things on my own.

“This session is informal and you don't have to commit to the whole day. You can come at 1 pm and leave when you want and it's just easier to fit in.”

Campaspe Shire regulatory and community services general manager Paul McKenzie said through speaking with older adults who attended many of its programs, the shire identified a need for them to socialise in a safe and supported environment without expectations of having to spend money.

“The aim of the senior group is to offer a regular time and place where over-55s could just sit and chat for a few hours, share experiences and make new friendships,” he said.

“We also recognise there are local Neighbourhood Houses that foster inclusiveness, volunteer and learning opportunities and we encourage people to find out what is on offer at these facilities, too.”

Mr McKenzie said socialisation also helped people to maintain their self-esteem and sense of worth.

“It helps people stay connected to their community, combats loneliness and it contributes to improved physical, mental and emotional health,” he said.

Another weekly group gives adults of all ages the opportunity to develop their language skills in a friendly, safe and inclusive environment.

The English Conversation Circle, held at 1 pm every Tuesday, allows adults who speak English as a second language to practise conversational English helped by volunteer tutors.

Of the 33,184 Campaspe residents profiled in the 2016 Census, 1190 people said they spoke a language other than English, while 2682 other people did not specify either way.

“We are seeing more people attending library activities who speak English as their second language,” Mr McKenzie said.

“We have received feedback that many want to improve their English to assist with their social interactions, employment opportunities and to help their children with their schooling.”

Mr McKenzie said both sessions also promoted all kinds of conversation, with participants able to benefit in a variety of ways.

“Libraries are community connectors and they can change lives in many ways, and this is just one way we can do that,” he said.

Both sessions are free and no bookings are needed; just come along.