As the risk of severe illness from COVID-19 is known to increase by age, becoming particularly high for those over 80, older people have been disproportionately affected and, as a result, have spent much of 2020 isolating from family and friends.
With the situation in Australia stabilising, with some states reporting no new cases, now may be a good time to make plans to reconnect in-person with loved ones.
For those not knowing where to start, there is assistance available to help you navigate this new way of living and connect with your community again.
Aged care and disability provider, Life Without Barriers (LWB), believes that social isolation is a serious matter, and for older people, it can have a particularly profound effect on health and wellbeing.
"At Life Without Barriers, we support older people to remove some of these barriers to social inclusion and help stay connected," says Life Without Barriers Director of Aged Care, Brendan Smith.
"We understand that living a life on your terms means that the help you need might be a lot or just a little, we are committed to supporting older people and find a new and safe way to stay independent at home."
Even before the pandemic, older people were more prone to social isolation and loneliness, citing factors such as low mobility and the passing of friends and loved ones.
While most younger Australians used technology to stay in contact with friends and family during unprecedented COVID-19 lockdowns, those with less experience in the digital world have struggled to stay in touch.
According to research from the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS), just 23 percent of people over 70 reported daily contact with their family during the pandemic, almost half that of people under 40.
Living alone can also contribute to how lonely one feels. While remaining at home is a sign of independence for many, it can be accompanied by significant lows, especially by those living by themselves.
For some, the events of 2020 may have prompted reflection, leading to goals of expanding social networks or getting out and about more.
Seeking support to get out and about in the community and connect with friends and family is an important first step.
As Christmas approaches, this could mean additional support to attend a Christmas get-together, shopping for gifts, a new outfit or transport to places that are important to you.
If catching up with loved ones virtually (e.g. video call or email) is your preference for now, Life Without Barriers can support people to get set up a smartphone, iPad or computer.
For most older people, Life Without Barrier's services will be free, subsidised by the Australian Government through programs, like your Home Care Package.
To talk to a member of the Life Without Barriers team about companionship, community, and social support, or any of our other aged care services, phone 1800 935 483 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit the Life Without Barriers website.