Everyone needs to work hard to ensure their neighbourhood has a strong sense of community to help combat social isolation among seniors, writes David Panter.
One in four Australians are currently experiencing loneliness and sadly the trend is on the rise. Coupled with the fact that nearly half of Australians say they have no neighbours they can call for help, initiatives such as this Sunday’s Neighbour Day are increasingly important for the wellbeing of our local communities.
We know that loneliness leads to a range of physical and mental health issues, including anxiety, insomnia and increased risk of heart disease. It also has a major impact on the broader community through lower productivity rates and increased pressure on our health system.
Older people are more at risk of social isolation especially if they live alone and given we have an ageing population, we are facing the prospect of a loneliness epidemic. However we all have the power to combat it and the only cost to us is our time.
Everyone has the ability to get to know people in our community and take the time to check in on people who may be feeling lonely.
It can be as simple as having a quick chat over the fence, assisting with odd jobs or checking in on older people in your community from time to time. They are simple gestures but can make the world of difference to someone experiencing loneliness.
And while it is up to individuals whether or not they get to know their neighbours and be an active member of their local community, there is also a role for governments at all levels and organisations to encourage social interaction.
Research has shown there are significant social benefits associated with intergenerational programs, volunteering opportunities and skill-based workshops or groups.
One such success story is The Pear – a neighbourhood café in Alberton that opened early last year with support from ECH, Port Adelaide Enfield Council and the Port Adelaide Football Club. The café is a welcoming space where locals can meet likeminded people, have a cup of coffee and a chat, and learn new skills. It has had a major impact on the area’s sense of community and residents’ wellbeing.
There’s no doubt one of Adelaide’s most endearing attributes is its strong sense of community. These feelings of belonging and mattering to each other can be diluted in cities and other areas due to rapid growth, but it is important that we all work hard to preserve or create a sense of community in our neighbourhoods.
So if you haven’t seen your neighbour for a while or you feel someone on your street could do with a little help, reach out. Trust me, you will feel better for it and there is no doubt they will too.
Dr David Panter is chief executive of aged care and housing provider Enabling Confidence at Home (ECH).
Neighbour Day 2019 takes place on Sunday 31 March with the following theme: Loneliness: What neighbours can do to create connections.
Comment below to have your say on this story