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A community focus at Seniors Social Gathering


Fred Rea and Sean McDonagh helping bring a community focus with ‘The Gathering’ Northern Suburbs Seniors Photo: Natashya Fernandez

By Natashya Fernandez

For retiree Sean McDonagh, being idle wasn’t something he was used to.

Together with his friends Fred Rea and Jim Egan, the three men were on a mission to bring a community spirit to the northern suburbs in Perth and formed ‘The Gathering’ Northern Suburbs Seniors group.

Mr McDonagh, an acolyte at Wanneroo Parish, wanted more for the seniors of the Parish and said that it didn’t take long for a few parishioners to get together and support the idea.
“A gathering in Irish means a ‘meeting’ and that’s what we wanted it to be – a meeting where people can socialise, engage and share memories,” he said.

The initiative has been embraced by Wanneroo Parish Priest, Father John Daly, who welcomed the idea of having more interaction with the senior community, within the parish and wider community.

The first gathering, said Mr McDonagh, got off to a roaring success on 16 February at the Parish Hall, with more than 45 seniors gathering to socialise, meet old and new friends, share memories and participate in some light-hearted fun and entertainment of old favourite tunes and stories from Ireland.

“We had seniors from various nationalities including Australia, New Zealand, Scotland, England and Ireland,” Mr McDonagh said.

“The Gathering gave them an opportunity to socialise, make friends, share memories and tell a joke or two,” he said.


Tom Gilmore, (left, visitor from Ireland) with friends, Michael Locke and Anita Nicoletti, could not keep away from enjoying the day with his Irish friends Photo: Supplied

While the morning was serenaded by the likes of Fred Rea and Joe Carroll, the group enjoyed singing to the tunes over a cuppa and yummy nibbles.

At a second gathering held on 23 March, Mr McDonagh and Mr Rea told The eRecord how they have now managed to gain the support of sponsors, volunteers who assist at the Gathering events, as well as local community agencies who attend to discuss various age care issues.

They have also commenced promoting a CD called ‘Passing Memories’ and now visit parishes across the northern suburbs of the Archdiocese to promote The Gathering.

Mr McDonagh explained that by recognising a need for seniors to get together and have a social outing, together with Fr Daly’s permission, he went about visiting the parishes.

“I found that people don’t interact outside of church, we go to Mass and that’s it,” he said.

“There’s nothing to bring us together. So, I went to Whitfords, Banksia Grove, Ocean Reef and Woodvale to invite all senior parishioners to the gathering.”

Business Development Manager, Aged Care Services, MercyCare, Sam Spiro was especially thrilled to be present at the second gathering where she discussed the changes to the home care packages and talked about the importance of informing the public about the support services that are available to help keep individuals living at home for longer.

“I am really happy to be invited here by Mr McDonagh to talk to you about how we at MercyCare can provide health and community services to all seniors over the age of 65 in the metro area.

“I am visiting all the parishes in the northern suburbs to talk about our services and how we can help you to live independently at home,” she said.

Enthusiastic and optimistic that the group will grow with word of mouth, Mr McDonagh said that they have handed out fridge magnets with the dates of the monthly meetings to all who have attended the second gathering.

“We have also publicised it in the weekly church newsletter in our parish and have a write up of the first meeting on the bulletin board,” he said.

Mr McDonagh hopes that these monthly gatherings will attract more seniors to get out, interact with each other and make new friends.

“We want it to be a place where we can build a community for seniors who have retired and want that little more than just going to the pub for a meal.

“All you have to do join us, bring a plate, volunteer your time for a few hours or help promote our gathering. We would love to make this success and we need your help to do that,” Sean ended.

Monthly Gathering Dates for 2017
20 April, 18 May, 15 June, 20 July, 17 August, 21 September, 19 October, 16 November and 21 December
For further details, contact: Sean McDonagh on 0431018388