This week we celebrate the NSW Seniors Festival and the unique contribution older people make to our community. It is also a chance to highlight that for many older Australians social isolation and loneliness is a significant issue.
Most of us know the old saying ‘It takes a village to raise a child’ but the reality is that it takes a village grow old and stay healthy too. Older people who don’t get enough social connection have an increased risk of experiencing poorer mental health and wellbeing, which research shows can have a negative impact on their physical health.
Through the Australian Government Department of Health’s Improving Social Connectedness of Older Australians Project Pilot we received funding to implement a two-year project focused on reducing social isolation and loneliness in the Hawkesbury, using a Compassionate Community approach.
Through this project, we are proud to have recently launched the My Health Connector website, a free online directory to help older people in the Hawkesbury improve their social connections. The directory lists hundreds of local health and lifestyle services like social groups, wellbeing activities and community services that can help people to become less isolated. Over time, services from the Blue Mountains, Lithgow and Penrith will be added to this directory.
For those people who need a bit more help, they can access free face-to-face support from a Health Connector based in selected Hawkesbury general practices.
Health Connectors are trained nurses who have dedicated time to help older people make new connections and who will give them information about local services, social or support groups, volunteer programs and transport options.
There are lots of ways for older people to make new connections but it can sometimes be overwhelming for them to know where to start. I encourage you to share this directory with your family, friends and networks. Together, we can help to combat loneliness and help those feeling isolated to find their village.
Watch the video below to find out more about the My Health Connector website.