Home' Community Care Review : CCR Aug-Spt 2015 Contents Staying
Afew years ago following the death
of her husband, Fay Knights, who is
aged in her 80s, moved from the farm
they shared in Roma, southern Queensland,
to Grafton, a town in northern NSW.
The move did not leave Fay physically
socially isolated -- she had regular contact
with her daughter whom she is close with
-- but it was socially disconnecting. She
wasn't socialising with anyone her own age
or getting out of the house.
Since receiving social support services
from The Whiddon Group in Grafton,
however, Fay is getting out more. She has
been reconnected with her past interests and
hobbies including horses, which
she rode until moving to Grafton,
and now regularly visits and feeds
the horses of a care worker.
Care coordinator Tina
Hanchard says even though Fay
was coping fairly well with the
loneliness before, the social
support has "lifted" her and today
she is a different person, who has
developed a confidence and is
regularly getting out.
Karn Nelson, executive general
manager strategic policy and research, at
The Whiddon Group, says they know there
are many older people in the community
like Fay who could benefit from social
support as communities and families
become more fragmented.
There's also evidence linking loneliness
and social isolation to ill health, says
Nelson noting Holt-Lunstad's research that
found it can be as harmful as smoking 15
cigarettes a day.
While there is already some Australian
research on the issue, Nelson says there
wasn't much focusing on the older cohort. To
gain a deeper understanding of the current
levels of loneliness among older Australians
Whiddon commissioned new research and
discovered it is four times higher among
seniors than the population at large.
"It was quite significant for us to see
the high levels of declared loneliness
amongst our sample," Nelson says.
The 2015 Social Isolation and
Loneliness Report is based on
an online survey conducted by
Galaxy Research in February
of a representative sample of
Australians aged 65 years and
older (500 participants).
It found that 1.4 million
over-65s (45 per cent) experience
loneliness compared to 10 per
cent of the whole population,
yet only 415,000 over-65s (13 per
cent) say they crave more social contact.
A much higher proportion identified as
experiencing loneliness than wanting more
social contact, which supports the idea that
perceptions of loneliness are not just about
lack of social contact, says Nelson.
"This is why facilitating the rediscovery
of old and discovery of new interests or
connection to animals, pets, land or nature
can be more effective ways of overcoming
Loneliness is significant problem among older community-dwelling Australians
according to fresh research from The Whiddon Group, which is taking
inspiration from a UK campaign to try and address the issues from the
grassroots up. NATASHA EGAN reports.
self-isolation or loneliness for older people
than social contact on its own."
Elsewhere the research found that older
people in Queensland are the most likely
to feel lonely (47 per cent) while those in
Victoria and Tasmania combined are the
least (38 per cent), which Nelson says
may be connected to a finding that those
living outside of the city are more likely to
experience loneliness (49 per cent) than
city-dwellers (39 per cent).
The report also found a strong link
between living arrangements and loneliness
with 71 per cent of those living alone
experiencing loneliness versus 31 per cent
who are living with a partner and 43 per cent
living with another family member. Those with
a household income of less than $50,000 are
more likely to feel lonely (50 per cent) than
those with a higher income (39 per cent).
Older women are more likely to
experience loneliness (48 per cent) than
older men (37 per cent) and they are also
much more likely to live on their own (39
per cent) than their male counterparts (15
per cent), according to the research.
Whiddon is concerned that levels of
declared loneliness are probably much
higher because even though this research is
representative, it was conducted online and
therefore attracted tech-savvy seniors.
The research also looked at the relationship
between feelings of loneliness and
perceived barriers to social interaction and
Whiddon client and carer
42 | AUGUST 2015
Engagement, community connection & outreach
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