Joan, an Anglicare At Home client lost her husband 2 years ago. She thought the feelings of sadness and loss would slowly dissipate, but a year on, she was still feeling very lonely and reluctant to interact socially. She went to see her GP who diagnosed her with depression.
There are clear links between loneliness and feelings of, sadness, depression, hopelessness, and anxiety, according to Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA). In fact, research findings indicate that the health impact of loneliness and lack of social connections is equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day (Holt-Lunstad, 2015).
“I’d never experienced depression before. I’d been alone before but never felt this way. This was different, I felt very lonely, even when I was chatting to the neighbour,” said Joan. She spoke to her care worker, Michelle, who recommended a change of scenery. Reluctantly, she agreed to give it a go.
Michelle thought regular attendance at Anglicare’s Social and Wellness Centre would do Joan wonders. And it did. With the support of caring staff, it only took Joan a short time to warm up to the new environment. Now, she feels like a new person. “I have made a good friend, another lady about my age, and I absolutely love the staff. I get to do what I feel like on the day, which usually involves knitting, games, or going out on bus trips,” says Joan.
Studies show that loneliness is associated more closely with the quality of social connections than the number of social contacts a person has (according to ACSA). It seems if you’re able to connect deeply with at least one person, you’re less likely to experience loneliness.
In addition, loneliness is quite common in people living with dementia as they can become very isolated, especially for those who have lost confidence in speaking and are nervous about going out. They may stay at home where they feel safe but lose all their social connections.
So what can you do to address loneliness?
Making the first step to reach out for support isn’t easy, but it is a good idea. You could talk to someone you trust, family members, your GP or Anglicare on 1300 111 278 to find out about the range of social opportunities available.
Connect with others via social media – As part of the Connecting Older Adults project in NSW, 150 older people were trained on social media and studied for 6 months. The research showed that those who were keen users of social media found a significant decrease in feelings of loneliness.
Social and Wellness Centres – How do you feel about visiting a social centre with like-minded people where you can meet up with friends for a cup of tea and a chat; where you felt free to do whatever makes you happy? Some aged care providers such as Anglicare, have dedicated social groups offering older adults opportunities to socialise and express their creativity in a safe and caring environment. Anglicare has over 14 Social and Wellness Centres across Greater Sydney, the Blue Mountains and the Illawarra, offering opportunities for socialisation, exercise classes, dancing, great food, games, arts, crafts and more. All these services are designed to provide opportunities for older adults to get together to build supportive friendships. Anglicare’s Care Workers can even call you or visit you at home if are unable to attend the centre. We’re here to have a friendly chat to support your social connections.
Anyone can experience loneliness at any time. The important thing to remember is that friends and support are just a phone call away; please contact us to learn more. Anglicare can also help you with the process of applying for a Government subsidy to access our Social and Wellness Centres.