Grab Pen And Paper, Letters Deliver Happiness
Today on International Day of Friendship, Bupa is calling for all friends and whānau to pick up a pen and write a letter or card to older Kiwis. Keeping connected, maintaining friendships, and remaining social is important to everyone’s health and wellbeing but even more so with older New Zealanders.
“Having a good friend helps your social wellbeing and general health; it can protect you from things like depression and can have other health benefits by keeping you thinking clearer. We also know that if you’re having fun, you’re more likely to be resilient when adverse events happen,” says Dr Maree Todd, Bupa’s geriatrician.
“For older people, it is often harder to keep friends at this stage of their life, which puts them more at risk of loneliness. They are more likely to live alone if they’re not in aged residential care. Illness often restricts their ability to get out and about and connect with people. They are also at an age when peers, spouses and friends are passing away,” says Maree.
However, there are a number of things we can all do to help older people maintain friendships and keep loneliness at bay.
Put it in the post
“Receiving and sending letters is a really positive thing that anyone can do. This is a generation where people often communicated by writing and while it’s not something the younger generations do, whenever any of us receive a letter or card in the mail it makes us feel very special,” says Maree.
Letters and cards have the added bonus of not being reliant on people’s ability to use technology, such as email or social media, like Facebook.
It is also an easier mode of communication for the significant number of people (1 in 3) who suffer from hearing loss as they get older.
Another great tip from Maree is to send photos.
“Without doubt, all our residents, whether they are in a care home or a retirement village, love receiving photo updates. It helps people connect with what’s happening in the world, especially what’s happening with younger generations in the family,” says Maree.
“Not only do you get the initial enjoyment of receiving photos, but they can then be hung up in people’s rooms and shown around to their fellow residents. These images become a talking point and a way to connect and learn about each other, which is a key part to forming bonds. Research does show that asking questions increases likeability.”
Ways to share photos:
- Send photos in the post
- Ask your care home if you can send them photos to print off and give to residents
- For the tech savvy, you can set up shared albums on your iPhone or iPad or a WhatsApp chat.
“Making new friends and maintaining old friends takes effort; you have to be proactive. For older Kiwis, our key advice is to say ‘yes’ to social activities – if you don’t try it, you don’t know what it’s like and the social interaction might allow you to develop a new friend.
“So, give yourself the challenge of going out and speaking to somebody new today,” adds Maree.
Always take an interest
“For Bupa teams, today is a good reminder of the role we play in helping our residents to feel connected and part of a community”, adds Maree.
Clinical data (interrail) for New Zealand shows that for older Kiwis living at home, loneliness is quite high, over 22%, but is significantly lower in care homes.
“For our residents, this drop in loneliness reflects the Person First approach we take. Every day, we work hard to have meaningful interactions, to create activities and build social connectedness. All core things for building friendships and why the opportunities to make new friends is higher in care homes than someone housebound with illness at home. For example, my mother has made more friends in the last six weeks then in the last ten years,” concludes Maree.