This week is the NSW Seniors Festival and the chance to celebrate the unique contribution older people make to our community.
As a PHN, we are committed to doing our part to make older people’s health a priority. In our region the population aged 65 years and older is projected to be 65,100 by the year 2021, which is over 16% of the population. As our aged population increases, so does our need to ensure that we have adequate community supports and services available to care for people as they enter this phase of their life.
This week, I was pleased to announce that we will be piloting a new mental health service for people living in Residential Aged Care Facilities (RACFs). During the six-month pilot, an experienced mental health nurse will be providing support to residents, identified as being affected by mild to moderate mental illness, at two local RACFs. This pilot will develop a model that we can use to expand this service more widely across the region in mid-2019.
We are also one of only two PHNs to have received funding to pilot a program to combat social isolation. Research shows that people living without adequate social connections, particularly in later life, face increased risks of poor mental health and well-being, which can negatively impact their physical health. People who are lonely are 60% more likely to use emergency services and twice as likely to be admitted to a RACF.
Using a Compassionate Communities based model, this program will assist socially isolated older people living in the Hawkesbury region. A dedicated Community Development Worker will focus on increasing social capital and community connections within the Hawkesbury, and will engage local GPs, health professionals, community and social services, to work together to tackle loneliness in the area.
These projects are just a couple of examples of the work our organsiation is doing for older people in our region. This week, let’s remember to reach out to the seniors around us and let them know that they are still a valued part of our community.