Dave Schulz and Caron Grich, the coordinators for a Brunswick-based social group for single individuals 55 and older called “Connected.” C. Thacher Carter / The Times Record

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, meetings of up to 30 older folks would gather in Brunswick to listen to guest speakers and mingle. Participants were 55 or older and either widowed, divorced or single and came from communities such as Wiscasset, Gray, Damariscotta and Bath.

Then the coronavirus struck Maine, and in March 2020 the meetings had to stop.

Now, the group, Connected, is returning, and for those who working with older residents, that’s a blessing.

“It’s filling a void,” said Caron Grich, one of the group’s coordinators and founders. “Everybody’s casual. There’s no pretenses, there’s no stiffness to it.”

Connected was launched in 2019 as a way for older folks to meet and mingle. It is not a dating group. The meetings are free and a great alternative to bars or restaurants, Grich said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, older populations are at a higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 and are also more likely to experience loneliness and social isolation in general, even prior to the pandemic and quarantine that followed.


Stacy Frizzle-Edgerton, director of the Brunswick-area senior community center People Plus, noted that barriers to group activities for some older adults were in place even before the COVID-19 pandemic, with one being limited access to transportation.

People Plus closed its center in Brunswick for about six weeks when the pandemic began, Frizzle-Edgerton said.

“As older adults age into this stage of their life, they quite often lose a partner and find themselves isolated and living alone,” Frizzle-Edgerton said. “Groups like Connected are invaluable for providing a social outlet for older adults.”

Dr. Susan Yetter, a provider with Mid Coast Hospital Senior Mental Health Services, said that socialization and daily activity are both extremely important in maintaining good mental health, especially in preventing and treating depression and anxiety.

“It’s been very challenging during COVID,” said Yetter, who works with patients aged 65 and older. “Isolation is a significant problem.”

“It’s been pretty isolating, especially before the vaccination,” said Dave Schulz, another coordinator and founder of Connected. “I and a lot of my friends only went out maybe once every couple of weeks to go the store.”


A research study published in 2020 by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine stated that nearly one-fourth of adults aged 65 and older are considered to be socially isolated.

Maine’s vaccination rate, which stands at 84.7% for those aged 50 and older, was a major factor in the decision to resume meetings, Schulz said. Attendants who are unvaccinated will be required to wear masks.

At Connected, each meeting includes a guest speaker from a local organization or business. Past examples include Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association, Maine State Music Theatre and Mid Coast Hospital.

“I met a lady at one of the meetings and occasionally we go out and have coffee,” said Jim Cherry of Durham. “It’s enjoyable, and you get to meet people you normally would not meet.”

Durham resident Jim Cherry said in the past he has attended the Connected meetings, and had success in meeting new people. C. Thacher Carter / The Times Record

Brunswick resident Tom Garcia said that he “was sold” after his first meeting, and was very disappointed when COVID-19 paused the group.

“I am a people person, I like to be around people,” said Garcia. “I don’t go to bars, but this is something I will go to every time I can.”

Pam Cormier of Bath spoke highly of the guest presentations, particularly the speakers from Brunswick’s recycling program and the nutritionist from Hannaford. “You learn a little bit about your community that you wouldn’t have even thought of.”

Meetings will be held at St. Charles Borromeo Church in Brunswick. Connected’s first meeting is scheduled for Nov. 8 and following meetings will take place on the first Monday of the month.

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