Organizations in Montreal are trying to help the city's 'elder orphans' – seniors who live alone and are isolated.

Quebec's population is not only ageing, but it’s becoming more isolated. An estimated one in five seniors in Quebec doesn't have anyone to check in on them or call when they need help.

That’s where the organizations come in, helping seniors build a network and stay active.

Howard Wolfe is the woodshop coordinator at the Cummings Centre.

“The camaraderie of 15 or so fellas, all around the same age, going through all the same health issues, etc. Our coffee break is probably our best time because it's a lot of kibitzing and friendship,” he said.

Activities like these serve as an antidote to the struggles 'elder orphans' can face.

“An elder orphan is someone who has no family, or at least no family with whom they are connected. And they're really living alone. They're an autonomous person living in their home on their own,” said social worker Stephanie Erickson.

The problem of isolated seniors is getting worse, said Erickson, and the current health care system isn't able to handle it.

“I think seniors want connection, but there are some barriers that prevent them from reaching out,” she said.

Mobility, transportation and poverty are challenges, but it's the stigma of loneliness can often be the most significant barrier to asking for help.

“People have this feeling that if you're isolated it's probably because you're not nice or there's something you didn't do to keep your network going,” said Caroline Sauriol, executive director of Little Brothers, a group that reaches out to isolated seniors through visits, going with them to appointments and delivering care packages.

As a charity relying on donations, their reach is limited. They're calling on the government to take the lead on this issue but said everyone could do something to help.

“How do we break isolation? We create networks,” said Sauriol. “We create relationships between people.”