Despite today’s hyper-connected society, older Australians are often left out - meaning the face of loneliness can be all too easy to miss.
Feelings of loneliness and isolation can lead to serious health consequences for ageing loved ones, from emotional issues like depression and anxiety, to physical fallouts such as high blood pressure, insomnia and higher risk of stroke and chronic diseases.
Opportunities to socialise, participate in activities we enjoy or even being able to continue doing the things we’ve always done, like grocery shopping or going to the post office, can make the world of difference to our health and wellbeing.
As a society, we are all responsible for ensuring the ageing members of our community do not suffer from isolation and loneliness. If you’re concerned about a member of your family or a friend who may be experiencing loneliness or a loss of confidence, or you feel someone you know may be at risk, here are five questions to think about to help you identify the problem and support them to find a solution.
1. What is their living situation like?
If your relative or friend is living alone, be sure to check how active they are in staying connected to their community, friends and family. While living alone doesn’t always lead to feeling disconnected from the community, it is certainly a risk factor. Other contributing factors include the loss of a spouse, a fear of going out and falling, a fear of becoming a burden on others, difficulty communicating (due to language or hearing problems) and illness. Identifying the presence of one or more of these factors is the first step in prevention.
2. Do they have a way to get around?
Living close to the shops or cinema is no use if you can’t get there. Make sure your relative, neighbour or friend has a reliable way to get around. If they no longer drive, put them in touch with a home care service provider, like Silver Chain, who can help them get where they need to go and carry on doing the things they enjoy in their community.
3. What are they interested in?
As we age, it’s vital to remain actively involved in the things we enjoy. Whether that’s cooking, playing bridge, or spending the afternoon at the library or local pool - chat to your relative or friend about what they like to do and help them find out how they can get involved again.
4. Are they a dog or a cat person?
Pets have an amazing way of providing loyal companionship and unconditional love. If your loved one likes animals, talk to them about adopting a pet from a local animal shelter. Pet therapy is medicinal – a furry friend might be just what they need to help calm anxiety, ease loneliness and even improve physical wellbeing.
5. What support is available?
If someone you know is at risk of, or currently experiencing loneliness and in need of companionship, we’re here to help.
Silver Chain’s Community and Companionship services are designed to combat feelings of loneliness by helping people re-establish strong social connections and get involved with meaningful activities in their community. Your friend or relative may benefit from joining one of our dementia-friendly Social Centres, where they can socialise with others in a home-like environment. We can help them get involved with their hobbies and passions again, assist with shopping, getting to medical appointments, visiting their favourite places or help them get around town so they can carry on doing the things they enjoy. Whatever their situation or needs, we can support your loved one to live a healthy, safe and independent life at home and remain connected to their community.
Please call our Contact Centre today on (08) 9242 0242 (or 1300 650 803 for country callers) for more information about our Community and Companionship services.