Need: Suicide rates among white males age 65 and older have been rising in North Carolina. Challenges include losing friends, illnesses, and the loss of independence – all of which can lead to isolation and depression.
Intervention: The Chatham County Council on Aging of North Carolina started Geezers, Gulpers, and Gardeners (3G Group) to connect retired men in need of male friends and mutual support.
Results: Men in similar stages of life and varying backgrounds are forming friendships, engaging in activities, and taking care of their mental health.
Elderly men may avoid bringing mental health concerns to
a healthcare professional because of the perceived stigma
that affects this demographic living in rural areas.
Physical symptoms of mental distress can also be mistaken
by medical professionals as typical signs of aging.
County Council on Aging provides services, programs,
and activities to older adults living in rural North
Carolina to help maintain their independence and quality
of life. In 2017, the Council developed Geezers, Gulpers,
and Gardeners (3G Group) to keep elderly men connected
with others their age and engage in mentally-stimulating
activities. The idea for the group originated from one
retired man's story. He moved to Pittsboro to be the
caregiver for his wife who was diagnosed with dementia.
As the only male who attended a caregiver support group
hosted by the Chatham County Council on Aging, he
expressed the desire to get to know other men in similar
The Council started the group that now
meets every Thursday morning at the
Eastern Chatham Senior Center in Pittsboro, North
Carolina. Most of the men drive themselves to the Center,
but assisted living facilities have offered rides for
residents who need it. Laurels of
Chatham, a skilled nursing and rehabilitation center,
provides food for the gatherings.
The 3G group is self-directed – the men in attendance
decide on their own activity each week. Members have the
opportunity to socialize with other men in similar life
stages, whether they've lost a spouse, are taking care of
their spouse, or are in need of male friends. Socializing
happens around coffee, yard games, cards, or checkers.
Sometimes, the men choose to draw "conversation starter"
questions/topics from a basket to spur conversation and
3G members are invited to participate in additional
activities offered through the Eastern Chatham Senior
Center, including wellness activities and classes.
Through their efforts, the 3G group has grown in
popularity among residents of Chatham County, with 6 regular members. Men with varying backgrounds – rural and
urban roots, highly educated or less educated – have
found common ground with one another through the 3G group
and have formed new friendships.
The Chatham County Council on Aging has seen growing
participation and leadership from 3G members in other
events and groups like the Minor Home Repair Team, which
repairs and enhances homes of seniors in Chatham County.
There has been a growing number of men attending the
Caregivers' Support Group and the Powerful Tools for
Caregivers class. Several members have participated in
Eastern Chatham Senior Center wellness activities,
including the Mixed Artist & Craft Group, senior
games, and the fitness center. Members have grown in
friendship and get together for activities outside of the
weekly 3G meeting or Chatham County Council on Aging
Overall, the group is having a positive effect on the
mental health of its participants as they actively engage
with the activities and opportunities provided.
Advertising and reaching the target audience has been a
challenge for the 3G Group. Coordinators have found that
word of mouth works best. Differing political views has
caused heated conversations, so the coordinators make
"conversation starters" readily available to divert
attention to more positive discussion.
To start a similar group for men, reach out to those who
are already coming to your local senior center for other
activities and notify your local assisted living
facilities. Providing food is always a good way to
attract people to your group. Promote the group through
fliers, business cards, and other materials to hand out
to potential participants.
Please contact the models and innovations contact directly for the most complete and current information
about this program. Summaries of models and innovations are provided by RHIhub for your convenience. The
programs described are not endorsed by RHIhub or by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy. Each rural
community should consider whether a particular project or approach is a good match for their community’s
needs and capacity. While it is sometimes possible to adapt program components to match your resources, keep
in mind that changes to the program design may impact results.