Home' Community Care Review : CCR Aug-Spt 2015 Contents found that lonely elders are more likely (54
per cent) to face barriers to staying socially
active than those who are not (20 per cent).
Nelson says they were expecting
disability or ill health to be identified as
the main barrier, but it turned out to be
financial constraints (20 per cent), followed
by general health (16 per cent) and physical
disability (14 per cent). Financial constraints
are more likely to be a barrier to staying
socially active for women (17 per cent) than
men (10 per cent), according to the research.
"People in low-income households are
more likely to say they're lonely and people
who say they are dissatisfied with their
financial situation are more likely to say
that they are lonely and are experiencing
barriers. Again, it is women who are more
likely to say they are dissatisfied with their
financial status," says Nelson.
A YEARNING FOR
Many over-65s who live alone (924,000
people) experience little social interaction,
according to the survey, which found that
a quarter received a fortnightly visitor, less
frequently for 14 per cent and never or
rarely for 30,000 elders or 3 per cent.
Another strong link identified in the
research is the importance of being
connected to community, says Nelson. "It
was heartening because the vast majority
said they had a close relationship with
someone. There was only a very small
proportion that said they didn't. Over 50
per cent of them said it was with their
neighbour, which gives you some idea of
how important your community can be."
While 13 per cent of over-65s say they
crave more social contact, the proportion
is much higher for 65-69 year-olds (17 per
cent) than those aged 70 years and over
(11 per cent), according to the research.
Significantly more want more interaction
with their community (71 per cent) than
more contact with friends (40 per cent) or
family (30 per cent).
Community implies getting out and
while that might mean mixing with people,
it is not always about people, Nelson
says, as it can often be around a hobby,
place and particularly for rural seniors, a
connection to land.
"It can be about particular interests like
in Fay's case and that whole thing about
how rediscovering a passion or a new
To enable seniors to engage
socially with their peers, WA
provider Bethanie runs eight
membership-based social clubs.
The Bethanie Social Centre in
South Perth was taken over from
the local council in the late 1990s
to fill a need for socialisation of
the elderly living in the community, says centre coordinator Gabrielle Roberts.
Membership is open to over 65s and people with dementia and costs $22 per
attendance, which includes transport, meals and activities.
Roberts says in a typical week, around 25 clients attend the club with many
attending more than once and several up to four times.
One of those regulars is 89-year-old Sybil Watson, who lives on her own in a rental
flat. Sybil was joined up to the club by her twin daughters in 2010 because she was
used to having lots of people around her in her native South Africa, but her family is
more spread out in Perth.
She attends four times a week, enjoys and participates in all the activities in the centre
and loves the camaraderie and being available to others when needed, says Roberts.
"Sybil was never lonely in South Africa where she always had a household of
people around her. So the centre fulfils that niche in a different way with friendships.
Sybil sees herself as helping others in the centre with her friendship as well," Roberts
tells Community Care Review.
She says their typical club member is someone living in the community with family
members who work so they are often at home on their own, and all who attend no
longer drive or never did and are at risk of being isolated.
"It's about ensuring that there is someone interested in their welfare outside
of their families and gives them another focus as they are part of their own peer
group," she says.
Left to right: Nell Neretlis, Sybil
Watson, Joan Oram, Irene Hall
passion can really connect you with life
again. For her, it was horses. Rediscovering
that just gave her the boost, the confidence
to rediscover joy in life."
Community care services can offer
opportunities for people to get out and
interact, says Nelson, but she adds it can be
tricky because the funding model is more
geared toward personal care and support
around the house. However, she says
consumer directed care might prove helpful
as clients can set their own priorities.
Nelson says Whiddon is aiming to keep
its clients connected by putting a focus on
understanding what matters to them. And
on a broader scale in its role as an advocate,
Whiddon is aiming to help combat the
issue through partnering with communities,
councils and governments to together provide
services that help everyone in the community.
She says they are drawing inspiration
from Independent Age, an advocacy
group for older people in the UK, and
its Campaign to End Loneliness, which
began in 2011 and is focused on raising
awareness about loneliness, its links to
ill health and the need to combat it. (See
"They have been very successful in
raising awareness and as a result of that
there have been all sorts of initiatives
and innovation pieces around how to get
communities to work together to combat
this problem," says Nelson.
As a starting point, Whiddon is aiming
to introduce its research at community
briefings in the communities they work in.
Nelson says they hope to use the
research as a way of engaging different
community groups to think about at a
grassroots how they can partner within
the community to come up with friendship
programs, for example, or other weekly,
small or large scale events. n
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