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Tackling social connection this International Day of Older Persons

1st October 2020

On the 30th anniversary of the International Day of Older Persons Benetas CEO Sandra Hills OAM calls for the community to tackle issues of social isolation and connection among older people across Australia.

Older Australians are significantly more likely than any other age group to face social isolation and experiences of loneliness, Ms Hills said. “This issue of loneliness people mightn’t sound like a critical policy or social issue, however we all know the very real pain and distress it directly causes.

“Social connection throughout a person’s ageing journey is vital for their wellbeing, quality of life, and in maintaining strong mental health.”

Reflecting on key challenges emerging from the pandemic, Ms Hills said that the need to focus on efforts to promote social connection among our elderly was more important than ever.

“The restrictions in Victoria these past months have given us all a very small taste of what it is like to have our mobility restricted, and our usual interactions with family and friends brought back to the bare bones.

“The fact is, many older people in our community often face this heightened social-isolation day in day out; something that may be compounded by the passing of a spouse, a desire not to ‘burden’ family members, increasing issues of mobility, changes to cognitive function, or often security and safety concerns.

“Alongside many organisations in Australia, the services that Benetas offers as a mission based aged care provider are very much designed to address these issues. We support a person’s holistic needs by nurturing a person’s ongoing social and community connection throughout their ageing journey.

“The recent Roy Morgan survey of 10,500 people ordered by the Royal Commission on Aged Care Quality and Safety reported in July that the public overwhelmingly believe that people in aged care are primarily lonely.

“While this finding is not surprising it highlights just how disconnected public perceptions are from the important role that aged care services provide in nurturing ongoing social and community connection.

“The aged care services that we deliver, whether they be residential homes for people with high care needs or community supports for people living at home, are designed to support older Australians to safely connect with the community and nurture meaningful relationships.

“We do need to see an ongoing investment from our local governments and community groups towards building age friendly cities, a trend I’m encouraged to see evolve each and every year.

“But we’re also needing our government to continue funding vital residential and in-home services that tackle loneliness among some of our most vulnerable community members.”