Loneliness and social isolation amongst older people is one of the biggest health risks facing Australia. Research shows it is equivalent to the health effects of smoking 15 cigarettes a day or consuming more than six alcoholic drinks daily.
Many of the people we provide support to in the community experience loneliness and social isolation, which can have dramatic health consequences including disrupted sleep, elevated blood pressure, increased stress and depression.
Silver Chain General Manager, Social Care WA, Anne-Marie Cox, said with more people choosing to be cared for at home and the projected increasing number of older people, a growing number of people are expected to experience social isolation or loneliness.
“To help combat this issue, we are establishing a volunteer program so we can connect clients who are experiencing social isolation or loneliness with people and activities in their local community,” Anne-Marie said.
“Volunteers will complement and be supported by other services Silver Chain provides. Each volunteering opportunity will enable a client to choose how they want to re-establish social connections and relationships and support them to do so.”
The volunteer program will not only contribute to the ongoing wellbeing of those participating in the service but also those who volunteer.
“Volunteering has enormous benefits – volunteers gain new skills, meet new people and enjoy a sense of purpose. It can help them stay active, engaged and connected to the community, enhancing their own wellbeing,” Anne-Marie explained.
The volunteer program will be trialled in two areas concurrently, one in a regional centre and the other in the Perth metropolitan area.
What is social isolation and loneliness?
Although often used interchangeably, social isolation and loneliness are distinct concepts.
What is social isolation? Social isolation is an objective experience when a person has minimal contact with others and little involvement in their local community.
What is loneliness? Loneliness is a subjective experience resulting from a lack of or loss of companionship. It is more than just being alone or living alone but rather how these situations cause a negative experience.