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The Selwyn Foundation celebrates 15 years of Selwyn Centres

The Selwyn Foundation celebrates 15 years of Selwyn Centres providing friendship and support to older people in the community

September 2015 marked the 15th anniversary of The Selwyn Foundation’s ‘Selwyn Centres’ charitable outreach programme, which aims to combat the problems of loneliness and social isolation of elderly people living alone in the community. The initiative, which provides neighbourhood drop-in centres for the over 65s, was first launched in Papakura (South Auckland) in 2000. Since then, the number of Selwyn Centres has grown to 43, offering friendship, fun, support and advocacy to seniors in localities across Greater Auckland, Northland, the Waikato and Christchurch.

For older people who may be without close family or friends, or who have limited opportunity for social engagement, the Selwyn Centres provide a chance to meet up each week with others of the same age group within their local area. Part-funded by The Selwyn Foundation, a charitable Trust whose mission is to help vulnerable elderly, they are run in partnership with Anglican Church parishes and welcome people of all faiths, backgrounds, cultures and ethnicities.

Loneliness is one of the most challenging issues facing elderly people today, but the thriving Selwyn Centres Parish Partnership programme provides invaluable social interaction and companionship to those who may be lonely or socially isolated. Based mainly in Anglican Church halls, they offer a timetable of shared activities, gentle exercise, morning tea and occasional trips and excursions all at nominal cost, with transport available, if required. Each session is facilitated by a trained coordinator and a team of volunteers.

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The Selwyn Foundation invests significant funding in the Selwyn Centre programme each year, and is committed to further expanding the network of Centres. Commenting on the need for such a service, the Foundation’s Chief Executive Officer, Garry Smith, says:

“Loneliness can be a serious health issue for older people, but the opportunity to meet others on a regular basis, form new friendships and generally be part of a community-based group at a local Selwyn Centre helps address this problem. It can also reduce the risk of cognitive decline and other adverse health conditions that can develop as a result of having limited social contact.

“Research confirms that, if you’re older and you’re lonely, the chances are that your mental faculties may decline at a quicker rate. However, remaining socially connected has a positive effect on general health and can also bring psychological benefits, such as delaying the onset of dementia. Indeed, the importance of social connections for wellbeing has led researchers to call on health professionals to take loneliness as seriously as other health risks (such as obesity and smoking).

“The Selwyn Centres provide companionship and shared interests in a supportive environment which, in turn, can contribute to older people being able to stay active, healthy and independent in their own homes.”

Acknowledging the value of the Selwyn Centre model and the psychological and health benefits that it promotes, the Counties Manukau District Health Board contributes funding each year to support the programme in South Auckland.

To celebrate the opening of the first ever Selwyn Centre at the Selwyn Homestead in Papakura, a special anniversary event was attended by a number of the original guests, as well as coordinators, volunteers and Parish Committee members of the Papakura Anglican Church who, with the Foundation, were instrumental in establishing the Centre 15 years ago.

A directory of all the Selwyn Centre locations is available at


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