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Social support in your community

Social engagements and strong community networks are integral to the health and wellbeing of older Australians.

Key Points:

  • Social connections are vital to your health and wellbeing, especially as you age

  • The Government provides a number of initiatives that encourage social inclusion

  • There are many organisations, clubs, activity groups, and charities that are always looking for new members or more volunteers

Older woman receiving help from her care giver
Social support can be as simple as having a support worker over for a cup of coffee or someone accompanying you out in the community.[Source: iStock]

The Commonwealth Home Support Programme (CHSP) and Home Care Packages (HCP) program provide a range of social support options for you to keep connected in your community.

Social support can be as simple as having a support worker over for a cup of coffee or someone accompanying you to get out into the community or attend social activities.

Additionally, Australia has a range of social support initiatives and programs for the elderly to keep connected with their friends, family, and community.

Connecting online

Be Connected is an Australian wide initiative helping Australians learn to connect with others digitally.

Free courses are available to older people to learn how to use a range of technologies, like phones, tablets, or laptops, and how to browse the internet safely. 

Be Connected encourages you to engage with people you know online, make new connections, understand how to find out news and information in the world and your community, and teaches you how to be safe online when using the internet or buying and selling items.

Additionally, there are courses available on how to use social media, ways to use the internet for fun and hobbies, and how you can organise your personal and financial affairs online.

The program also offers digital mentors to visit you at home and assist you with developing your digital skills so you are confident when using different technologies. 

Alternatively, local organisations and councils might be a Be Connected Partner. Search the map for a Be Connected Partner near you.

Find out more about the Be Connected initiative by visiting their website or calling on 1300 795 897.

Community Visitors Scheme

If you have become isolated in your community, the Community Visitors Scheme (CVS) may be a great fit for you.

The Australian Government initiative, delivered to Home Care Package recipients or people in Government-subsidised aged care, organises a like-minded volunteer to visit you in your home for a chat.

The aim of the initiative is to reduce loneliness and social isolation among older people at home.

Volunteers of the program are matched up with clients based on their hobbies and interests, as well as language or cultural backgrounds, to make conversation easier and to help develop stronger friendships.

Each State and Territory has an organisation that runs the program and organises the volunteer and client matches. A volunteer can visit once or twice a week for a couple of hours in both the home or residential care setting, or in a group setting.

For more information on the Community Visitors Scheme, visit the My Aged Care website or call on 1800 200 422.

Social clubs and activities

Local councils, community groups, and organisations tend to provide an array of social activities and clubs to keep you entertained, engaged, and involved in your local community.

Clubs and groups in your area can give you a new purpose, allow for the development of social connections, and encourage healthy mental and physical wellbeing.

These groups could cover interests like:

  • Reading

  • Arts and crafts

  • Dancing

  • Board games

  • Exercise and walking

  • Music

  • Cooking

  • Outdoor activities

  • Hobby collecting, such as antiques or other items

There are many benefits to joining a social club or activity group, including improved cognitive function, maintaining or improving physical health, preventing depression, increasing immune system functioning, better sleep, and can lead to a longer life.

To find a social club or activity group, contact your local council about any groups they may have affiliation with, speak to your support worker about social and activity group opportunities, or browse the internet to find something that interests you in your area.

Men’s Sheds

There are a number of country-root groups that encourage socialisation and camaraderie among people in their communities, such as Men's Sheds.

Men are likely to experience isolation, loneliness, and depression in their older years. As social engagement and strong community networks help combat these issues, Men's Sheds were founded to give a place for men to come together, socialise, talk about their issues, and engage in their hobbies.

According to the Australian Men's Shed Association, "Men can just come and have a yarn and a cuppa if that is all they’re looking for".

The Association receives funding from the Department of Health to provide practical mental health and wellbeing support to men that attend the sheds, as they have become an invaluable safe place for men to have conversations about their emotions, and physical and mental wellbeing.

Men that attend Men's Sheds tend to thrive off the mateship and camaraderie and are able to bond over hobbies, interests, and experiences.

To find a Men’s Shed near you, visit the Australian Men’s Shed Association website or call 1300 550 009.

Volunteering

The volunteering community in Australia is largely made up of older Australians, dedicating their time, hard work, and passion towards assisting charities and other grassroots organisations.

Volunteering provides the opportunity for older people to make a meaningful impact in their community while also staying active and connected in their area.

Volunteering Australia's research has shown that a large portion of volunteers in the country are between 55 - 74, with 37 percent retired. Additionally, people aged over 65 years old contributed an average of 104 hours per year, which is higher than any other age group.

There are over 600,000 organisations in the country who need the help of volunteers, and for older people, providing your time and skills can not only benefit the organisation but also yourself.

If you are passionate about something specific, you can volunteer for an organisation that has similar advocacy interests, this could include, arts or heritage, education and training, animal welfare, homelessness, emergency services, environment, health, children and youth, religion, or sports and recreation.

Alternatively, your local council may have volunteer programs to support your local community, or your closest animal shelter may need extra hands taking care of the animals. There are so many options available to you to engage with, it's just about finding the best fit for you.

Volunteering is common among older Australians as it is not only enjoyable, it can also provide you with passion and purpose, social inclusion, self-worth, and a lot of different physical and mental health benefits.

Volunteering doesn't have to be all time consuming too, it could be a couple of hours a week, but that time can make a huge difference to your wellbeing and happiness.

To find a volunteering opportunity for you, contact your local council, or visit the Volunteering Australia website or call 02 6251 4060.

What social activities do you like to do in your local community that brings you happiness and enjoyment? Tell us in the comments below.

Related content:

What is the Community Visitors Scheme?
Finding purpose in your retirement
Mental health services for older people in aged care

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