Monash University researchers are seeking input from the nation’s aged care recipients about their social activities, connections and wellbeing to inform a three-year study aiming to reduce social isolation and loneliness in later life.
The 25-minute survey is open to people aged 65-plus who are living in residential aged care or receiving a home care package and aims to improve the wellbeing and social activities of this cohort.
It is an opportunity for aged care recipients to have their say and help improve government programs, said survey lead Dr Rosanne Freak-Poli.
“We want to hear from all people receiving aged care across Australia to ensure we are capturing as many voices as possible. Their experiences and social needs matter,” Dr Freak-Poli – an epidemiologist at Monash University – told Australian Ageing Agenda.
The survey is part of a three-year evaluation of the Aged Care Volunteer Visitors Scheme across all states and territories that the interdisciplinary team – including social scientists, epidemiologists, and health economists – is undertaking for the Department of Health and Aged Care.
The scheme – previously known as the Community Visitors Scheme – engages volunteers to provide companionship through regular one-on-one and group visits to tackle aged care recipients’ social isolation and loneliness and improve their quality of life.
Social isolation and loneliness have terrible effects in later life, said project lead Dr Barbara Barbosa Neves, a sociologist of ageing and technology at Monash University and the University of Sydney.
“Both cause intense emotional pain and health issues. Our research shows that older Australians (aged 65+) who experience loneliness feel “abandoned”, “rejected”, and “left to die”. Our research also shows that social isolation and loneliness increase the risk of dementia and cardiovascular disease,” Dr Neves told AAA.
“While social isolation and loneliness do not affect all older people, both mostly impact Australians aged 65-plus who live in care homes or alone and deal with health problems. This makes it harder for them to socialise, limiting opportunities for meaningful social connections.”
This ties in with the wellbeing survey, which asks residential and in-home aged care recipients questions about social activities as well as feelings of loneliness. The survey – which is open until March – will be repeated in late 2024 and again in 2025. Ideally participants will complete all three rounds, said Dr Freak-Poli.
“Understanding the social activities and wellbeing of people receiving aged care support is extremely important to combat loneliness and social isolation,” she said.
To find out more about this research, or arrange to participate in the survey via an in-person, telephone or online interview, you can email the team at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (03) 9905 2971.