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Competition for ideas to combat social isolation and loneliness among older people

As we approach what can be an isolating holiday season for some older people, a Victorian community aged care provider is currently running a competition searching for good ideas that will tackle social isolation and loneliness among older Australians.

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The competition wants to get ideas from the community on how they can better tackle social isolation and loneliness issues among older Australians. [Source: Shutterstock]

Australian Multicultural Community Services (AMCS) is running the competition, finishing on 23 December. The 1st prize winner will receive $500 and the 2nd prize winner will receive $200.

The competition was part of the AMCS’ response to the findings from the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, which found that older Australians feel lonely and need more social support.

Olivia Oh, Communications Coordinator at AMCS and facilitator of the competition, says that the company already provides a lot of social support to their clients, however, they wanted to see what interesting ideas were out there from seniors, volunteers and carers who have firsthand experience of the impact of social isolation on older people.

"We just wanted to start that conversation. Ageing is one of the most common forms of disconnection. It is something that people don't often talk about because it seems to be a taboo subject," explains Ms Oh.

"Seniors, especially from multicultural backgrounds, a lot of them seem to have health issues or hearing issues, so they are more at risk of loneliness, and a lot of their loved ones have passed away.

"We support a lot of multicultural seniors where English is not their first language. When seniors get older, some of them revert back to their native language. That does increase their chances of social isolation because of all the barriers they face."

Earlier this year, the organisation ran another competition, an art challenge which encouraged people to submit pieces - videos, graphics or paintings - that celebrated ageing and defied ageing stereotypes.

There were quite a few entries to this competition with varying interpretations from participating artists. The winner of the competition was a portrait painting of an older person expressing joy on their face.

For this competition so far, Ms Oh says AMCS has received varied ideas from the community, ranging from fully thought out proposals to a couple of paragraphs of writing about an idea.

Some of these ideas include a reminiscent therapy method for people with dementia, to therapy involving pets and children.

There was one competition participant who encouraged her mother in law to self publish her memoirs, as she always wanted to write her own book.

"That just goes to show that even if you are older, it is never too late to achieve your goals!" says Ms Oh.

Another competition entry included a submission from someone who was playing scrabble online, used the chat function on the application, and found they had a lot in common with someone they were playing scrabble against, and they ended up meeting up in real life.

Ms Oh says there are a lot of ways to connect with people that don't even have to be face to face, and that technology can also help people feel less isolated.

AMCS believes that COVID-19 has played a big part in loneliness and social isolation among older Australians over the last two years, with some of their own volunteers struggling to visit older people in aged care or at home.

Ms Oh hopes that the competition will get the community thinking of new ways to keep older people engaged in their communities.

"To address the Royal Commission findings, we thought Christmas was a timely time because a lot of seniors haven't been able to see family members throughout the year and they might be able to start seeing family members again," says Ms Oh.

"Not only that, a lot of seniors don't have family members living in [their area] or all of their loved ones have passed away, so it is an isolating time for older people.

"... A lot of people don't think about seniors and how they might be feeling, especially people from multicultural backgrounds, there is that aspect where a lot of people don't realise that they relate back to their native language if they do get confused.

"That is another part of loneliness, to match people or connect with people that speak their language and understand their culture."

AMCS is looking forward to implementing the competition’s winning idea throughout their organisation, as well as potentially collaborating with other aged care providers and peak bodies, like Leading Age Services Australia (LASA), Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils of Australia (FECCA), and the Ethnic Communities' Council of Victoria (ECCV).

To participate in the competition, contact AMCS on 0481 218 931 or send an email to marketing@amcservices.org.au.

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