Communities of Wellbeing: Preventing Loneliness and Unwanted Social Isolation of Older Australians
Loneliness has many negative physical and mental health ramifications and is most prevalent among vulnerable social groups. Older adults have one of the highest levels of loneliness and in Australia, approximately 15% of the population over the age of 65 experiences emotional or social loneliness.
The presentation will share findings from a research project Relationships Australia Victoria (RAV) has conducted in partnership with Swinburne University. The project, supported by a grant from the Iverson Health Foundation, has looked at the role digital platforms can play in preventing and addressing loneliness in older adults between the ages of 65 and 75. Using a flipped health care approach, a series of focus groups comprised of members of this age group have provided invaluable insight into the experiences of this cohort in transitioning into and through retirements, and this in turn is informing the development of a digital platform that integrates prevention, early intervention and treatment strategies for loneliness. The potential of a short-form loneliness scale as an effective tool for identifying people at risk of loneliness will be discussed.
In parallel with this project RAV has developed a new group workshop for couples preparing for or in the early stages of retirement. With the understanding that retirement is a significant life transition that can have long term consequences for health and wellbeing, the program, “You, Me, Us”, was developed through a process of research and consultation, including focus groups of retirees. The insights gained both compliment and add to the findings from the Swinburne project and will be integrated into the presentation.
Preventing loneliness and addressing loneliness in older adults is a significant social and medical challenge for community and health services. Loneliness has deleterious effects on both psychological and physical health conditions, from decreased immunity, increased inflammatory response, elevated blood pressure, decreases in cognitive and mental health and faster progress of Alzheimer’s disease. The involvement of end users in co-designing programs and services will be vital to developing effective interventions and prevention strategies in future. It is hoped that the qualitative findings from these two projects will be of interest to others engaged in developing programs for this cohort.
Simon Curran is a Senior Manager at Relationships Australia Victoria and lead investigator of a research project, funded by the Iverson Health Foundation, addressing loneliness in older adults. He recently presented at the 2018 Elder Abuse Conference on an elder abuse prevention program supported by a Victorian State Trustees grant.