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10 tips to reduce the health effects of social isolation

Media Release: Age Concern New Zealand
2 April 2013
Age Concern’s top 10 tips to reduce the health effects of social isolation on older people

“Knowledge about the links between social isolation, loneliness, physical health, mental health, and mortality in older people is being added to all the time” says Ann Martin of Age Concern. The study highlighted in yesterday’s Dominion Post, which links social isolation to dying earlier is just one example. A US study showing that loneliness is a bad for health as smoking is another.”

“New Zealand research has shown that 8% of older New Zealanders are likely to be severely and chronically lonely” adds Ms Martin. “That equates to around 50,000 of older people at risk of avoidable health problems, and early death.”

“The important thing”, says Ms Martin “is to do something about it. There’s no need to feel helpless. It’s about attitudes. We can all make a difference and work towards a future where older people live valued lives in an inclusive society. Here are Age Concern’s top 10 tips to reduce the health effects of social isolation on older people:

• Older people who are socially isolated can make a plan to change their situation or reach out for help. Calling Age Concern is a simple first step.
• Families, including children can make an effort to keep in touch with older members, and include them in social occasions and activities.
• We can all look out for older people in our neighbourhood, and make an effort to get to know them.
• Members of the public can consider volunteering for organisations like Age Concern that work to support older people.
• Drivers and pedestrians can show courtesy and respect to older people who need to take a little extra time.
• Businesses and organisations can work to provide a welcoming and accessible environment for older clients and customers.
• Health professionals assessing older people can consider whether loneliness and social isolation are contributing to problems, and offer support as required.
• Not-for-profit organisations such as Age Concern can keep abreast of knowledge about social isolation, and provide responsive and appropriate support services.
• Local Councils can follow Tauranga’s lead, and engage with the “Age Friendly Cities” project.
• Government and DHBs can provide secure and adequate funding for effective interventions that target loneliness and social isolation amongst older people.

Together we can make a difference.


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