Joanna talks social isolation and loneliness in older adults


Published November 07 2019

Pilot program program Living Well, Ageing Well has kicked off and in full swing at Merri Health. We speak to the program's project coordinator Joanna on what the program is about and what got her interest.

In your words, explain to us what Living Well, Ageing Well is all about

Living Well, Ageing Well is an exciting and innovative new pilot program to support those aged 50+ and experiencing, or at risk of, loneliness and/or social isolation to develop social connections within their community. We provide short-term one-on-one support to clients to explore their interests, develop goals about increasing meaningful community connectedness, and address any barriers that currently make it difficult for them to participate.
Evidence shows that social isolation is most effectively addressed through a broad community-wide approach, and we therefore have a focus on developing relationships with other local agencies and organisations.

What piqued your interest to join the program?

In my previous role, undertaking assessments for the Commonwealth Home Support Program (CHSP; via My Aged Care), I met many clients experiencing social isolation. Many expressed how very painful their feelings of loneliness were, and also explained the difficulties they had in accessing groups or activities. I was very affected by this and wished there was a service that I could refer to that provided support to research options and address barriers – so when I saw the opportunity to be part of developing Living Well, Ageing Well I jumped at it!

What would be your number one piece of advice for an older person experiencing loneliness?

One of the main things would be to remember that the person is not alone in feeling alone – it is such a common experience. I think it is also important to recognise that loneliness and social isolation are very much the result of large-scale changes in society and the economy, which have meant that the usual 'bases for belonging’ have been changing or breaking down. It can therefore be difficult for people to access opportunities for a meaningful sense of connection. I feel that acknowledging this helps to break down the stigma attached to loneliness and social isolation.

If you weren’t involved with this program, what would you see yourself doing?

I am very interested in (and am studying) social policy, particularly aged care policy. Long-term, I’d love to work within a role that has a focus on both policy and community development.