New taskforce to tackle social inclusion

A national roundtable event involving both experts and lay people has identified the need for a coordinated approach to addressing the problem of social isolation among older Australians

Above: The roundtable event held at Zinc in Melbourne’s Federation Square

By Keryn Curtis

Victorian not-for-profit aged care provider, Benetas, will lead the establishment of a special taskforce to address the issue of social isolation among older people, following a national roundtable on social inclusion held yesterday in Melbourne.

The all-day event, hosted jointly by Benetas and the Victorian Department of Health, brought together a diverse group of older people and workers from aged care organisations, various ethnic communities and local and state government representatives to explore the issue of social isolation and its impact on older Australians.

Benetas CEO, Sandra Hills, said the event highlighted the fact that, while there are ‘pockets of brilliance’, strategies to address the issue of social isolation for older people lack focus and coordination.

“The roundtable was streamed into different topics and Roland [Nafaul of 4C Consulting, the event organiser and facilitator] asked the groups a range of questions,” said Ms Hills.

“One was who they thought was doing good work in relation to social isolation. And all this fantastic work came out!  There’s a lot going on out there.  Pockets of brilliance but how would you ever know?” 

“People in one region are probably replicating what another region is doing; CALD communities and rural communities are doing their particular things.  There are add-ons in the mental health arena and so on.

“But, as with issues like housing and older people and the economic contribution of older people, I think there is a capacity for us to pull together a taskforce looking at some of the broader strategic issues,” Ms Hills said. 

Above: Benetas CEO, Sandra Hills with Victorian Minister for Health, David Davis at the roundtable event.

Key outcomes 

Ms Hills said a key theme from the discussions yesterday was that all older people, regardless of their social, cultural or financial background, can become socially isolated. 

“Even those people who have busy, active social lives for the majority of their life can find that they become socially isolated as they grow older due to our later years being long and complex. 

“For this reason, our diverse group of attendees reached consensus quite quickly on the key priority areas that need to be addressed by public policy makers to prevent social isolation in older people.” 

Attendees at the roundtable identified up to five key priorities in the areas of mental health, housing and homelessness, transport, and culturally diverse communities that will assist in the prevention of social isolation. 

“What became very clear is that there is an increased need to ensure older people are genuinely consulted and involved in the planning of services and solutions.” 

Ms Hills said that transport was mentioned time and time again as integral to preventing social isolation, particularly for older people living in rural and regional parts of Australia. 

“Not only does transport need to be accessible and affordable for older people, but it must be a priority in urban design to ensure it meets their needs. Our attendees called for a coordinated approach to transport solutions with more systematic funding for community transport in particular so it can become part of our overall transport system. 

“There was also strong consensus that the third age is missing from our current national focus on mental health. There is therefore an urgent need for the mental health of older people to be included on the national policy agenda.  

“Likewise, accessible and appropriate information about services and opportunities needs to be available to all older people in their own languages to prevent social isolation. In Victoria, this means information needs to be available in all 200 languages spoken by older people, not just the five to 10 more commonly spoken languages.” 

Ms Hills said that the most common theme across the day’s conversations was the need for older people and key decision makers to be brought together more regularly to discuss how to prevent social isolation and look at realistic solutions that can be presented to governments at all levels. 

“We didn’t just want a talkfest.  We really wanted to make sure there was something tangible we could move forward with.  Benetas sees yesterday’s national roundtable as an important first step. We’re keen to continue to create ongoing space for discussions on reducing social isolation. 

“We invite older people and organisations who are interested in the planning, development and the provision of integrated consumer-focused solutions to join us. We want to form a Social Inclusion for Older People Taskforce to develop an action plan to address social isolation, and we’re inviting expressions of interest from the community to take part.”  

To express your interest in joining the taskforce contact Alan Gruner, Research and Development Manager at Benetas on (03) 8823 7948 or email alan.gruner@benetas.com.au by Wednesday 30 November 2011. 

* Event speakers:

Key speakers at the event include Victorian Minister for Ageing, The Hon David Davis, Mr IanYates AM, CEO of COTA Australia and Benetas CEO Sandra Hills. Other speakers include:

• Dr Gerry Naughtin, CEO, Mind Australia

• Dr Heather Wheat, Secretary, Life Activities Clubs

Professor Frank Vetere, Senior Lecturer, Dept of Information Systems, University of Melbourne

Dr Briony Dow, Director of the Preventative and Public Health Division, National Ageing Research Institute

• Ms Ljubica Petrov, Manager, Centre for Cultural Diversity in Ageing

Dr Helen Kimberley, Senior Manager, Brotherhood of St Laurence

• Mr Mark Silver, Social Worker, Uniting Aged Care

• Mr Bryan Lippman AM, CEO, Wintringham

Tags: 4c-consulting, alan-gruner, benetas, department-of-health, gerry-naughtin, nari, roland-nafaul, roundtable, sandra-hills, social-inclusion, social-isolation, uniting-aged-care, victoria, wintringham,

1 thought on “New taskforce to tackle social inclusion

  1. 4.1 million boomers born here and now we have 5.2 million. 80% will require full or part pensions, so all we did was kick the can down the road through immigration. The Dept of Immigration has also revealed that immigration is not the answer to the fiscal challenges facing Australia by ageing.
    I think we can do it through other social engineering. For example, Family Assist Part S, where a senior can sell up, keep their funds asset test free if they move in with another pensioner or a family. For the family talking in the pensioner, they get $5k from the govt and the rent from the pensioner tax free. We do not want to end up with 31% of our homes as lone occupants. It was 8% in 1946.
    Increase land tax, decrease stamps, reintroduce death tax for estates over 1 million etc. We have plenty of tools at our disposal without turning to the obvious choice of immigration. As this nation ages it will also turn anti-immigration as others have done, so we must focus on the solutions internally.

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