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Riverina Gums Men's Group fosters male friendships

One resident’s initiative is bringing the men of a New South Wales retirement facility together for friendship and support.

Riverina Gums Retirement Village resident Bill Prest started the Men's Group to foster friendship and support amongst the male residents (Source: RetireAustralia)
Riverina Gums Retirement Village resident Bill Prest started the Men's Group to foster friendship and support amongst the male residents (Source: RetireAustralia)

The Riverina Gums Retirement Village in Wagga Wagga, NSW is celebrating the creation of a men’s group within the facility that seeks to bring together the male residents. 

Resident Bill Prest established the group only two months ago and already has the majority of the village’s male residents attending the group’s weekly meetings.

“There are usually 10 to 16 men there, and they can bring up any subject they want to discuss,” says Mr Prest. “The men can discuss past experiences, talk about how many goals they used to kick in their younger days, or exaggerate about their fishing trips.

“Everyone seems happy to be in the group and it’s a good way for new arrivals to become integrated into the community.” While the group is primarily a social affair, Mr Prest says it serves an important role in support and assistance to men living in the village.

According to mental health support network Beyondblue, between 10 and 15 percent of older people experience depression and anxiety, with those rates rising to around 35 percent for people living in residential aged care.

Factors such as social isolation, loss of relationships and a significant change in living arrangements have all been linked to an increased risk of developing anxiety or depression.

Riverina Gums hosts several groups (including singing, craft and card making groups) that all residents are welcome to join, but which are mostly attended by the women in the village.

Acting Village Manager Anne Jack says it is fantastic to see the men getting together and building community spirit amongst each other.

“There are plenty of activities on the calendar for ladies, so it’s been refreshing to see a group forming that gets the men involved as well,” says Ms Jack.

“It gives the men an opportunity to be social and feel comfortable to talk about subjects and in a supportive and often humorous male environment.

“It is our philosophy to encourage activities in order to build a thriving community and encourage social.”

Mr Prest, who has been a resident at Riverina Gums for five years, has a history of taking part in community activities.

He is heavily involved in the local Rotary club and has worked with disability support groups for over 20 years.

“It’s good to get involved because it keeps one out of the rocking chair,” Mr Prest says.

Visit the Beyondblue website for information and support regarding men’s mental health.

For immediate support, contact the Beyondblue 24 hour support service on 1300 224 636 to speak to a mental health professional.

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