Only the Lonely

Only the Lonely

In 2015-16, Presbyterian Support Upper South Island supported 2,821 older people, their partners or caregivers.

In 2015-16, Presbyterian Support Upper South Island supported 2,821 older people, their partners or caregivers. Enliven, the organisation’s positive ageing service grew its clients base by 15 % and signs are that demand for social inclusion, in-home support, advocacy and wellbeing services for older people will continue to increase. As we approach the International Day of Older Persons on 1 October, we asked Presbyterian Support employee and ElderCare Canterbury coordinator, Valda Reveley, about a silent side-effect of ageing: isolation.
“The antidote to isolation is connection, a word often used but perhaps not well understood. How many of us intentionally connect with those who surround us? Have you ever stopped to consider the powerful effects of purposeful connections on neighbours and community? Without us being aware of the value of genuine connection – how can we hope to identify and support individuals in our communities who are feeling disconnected or isolated?
Isolation is not limited to older people but as you age your connections and support networks naturally weaken. Often, isolation sets in gradually. People stop working and start to withdraw from leisure pursuits or hobbies. They may drive less or not at all and may move away from established friendships to be near family. Establishing new networks can be more difficult at an older age, particularly for people who are very private. Conversely, for those who have been outgoing, active and involved their whole lives, the gradual erosion of connection can be especially difficult.
Today, organisations like Presbyterian Support with its Enliven Positive Ageing Services, and Elder Care Canterbury, exist to offer support and to advocate for the rights and needs of all older people, particularly those who are alone or in situations where they are less able to advocate and care for themselves.
But what of community responsibility? I believe that communities could be challenged to look out for one another – the new person on the street, the retiree, the new mother. Let’s not assume that because people have family or have lived in a place a long time that they won’t want to make friends. If we each took the time to intentionally connect with those around us, the demands on organisations like ours could be more easily managed.”

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5 Ways to Build Community

People are most vulnerable to isolation during times of change – a new baby, a move to a new suburb, retirement, loss of a loved one. We asked our support teams for five simple ways to help us connect – or be better connected to, those around us.

  • Smile or say “hello”. A smile costs nothing and could brighten someone’s day.
  • Ask “How are you today?” You don’t need to have all the answers but you can show interest and empathy. Feeling like someone cares and understands can make a difference.
  • Don’t assume. A well-kept lawn and tidy house aren’t always signs that all is well. Smile, say “hello”, stop for a chat or invite your neighbour in for a cuppa any way.
  • Offer a helping hand. Put out the rubbish, help stack the firewood, share your home baking. You can be neighbourly without being nosey!
  • Keep it up. Small gestures, offered consistently, may mean more than you realise.