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Helping older Australians tackle loneliness

Helping older Australians tackle loneliness

“Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty”- Mother Teresa

Never has the emotional impact of Loneliness been felt more keenly than this year as we contest with a more remote and distant world brought on by the spread of COVID 19. While the waves of COVID remain, so does the ‘sea’ of people experiencing loneliness expand.

By definition, loneliness is when “one has no friends or company”. What an impossibly sad and unfathomable thing to imagine. But loneliness affects not just those physically removed from people. It can be more insidious than that. A person with an abundance of people in their lives can feel incredibly isolated and lonely if they are not finding the emotional or physical connections they need. Each individual’s experience of loneliness is unique and has many complexities.

History has taught us that humans thrive in groups. Being separated from our ‘tribe’ can have detrimental effects on many aspects of our lives.

It has been proven that our physiological systems can be impacted by the lack of connectedness, therefore impacting our immune function and increasing inflammation, leaving us more susceptible to both a decrease in our physical and mental wellbeing.

In fact, our Company name is derived from the geographically identified ‘Blue Zones’. These are the places on Earth where people are proven to live the longest lives. There are five blue zones in the world, and one the main common threads is a close community of people, or on average, people have five good friends.

Beyond health impacts, experiencing a level of social connectedness helps us form part of our identity. It is now a part of common knowledge that as we grow and evolve, the five closest people in our lives have a large impact on who we are - so without these people, our identity can often become cloudy.

We truly believe in the power and importance of human connection, it drives us as an organisation to do everything that we do, day in day out!

The mental health impacts of social isolation can be understood as a parallel public health crisis to the COVID-19 pandemic itself. COVID-19 has exacerbated people’s loneliness, especially those most at risk - our elderly and those with chronic disease who are having to self-isolate for their own health safety.

At hand when you need us most.

In response Five Goods Friends launched a product called At Hand at the beginning of COVID-19. This product was on our roadmap and we launched with speed. With our partners at Apia, we recognised that At Hand gave us the perfect platform to reach out to the vulnerable in our community. We have started doing this by offering Apia customers identified as in need the opportunity to receive free wellbeing calls through the COVID period and beyond!

Apia have identified their most vulnerable members by having their support centres aware of loneliness cues on the calls they make. The uptake and response has been nothing short of incredible. Our Wellbeing callers are checking in with the Apia members, calling them twice a week building fantastic relationships along the way.

When any loneliness or health related issues are identified by our callers and our Remote Care Intelligence Platform, Lookout™, our team is alerted to ensure that all community supports are being accessed.

We have referred some of these callers to the Home Care Package Program, mental health supports and other community programs as well as continuously checking in on them and simply giving them someone to talk to. Our callers have reported that the members look forward to the scheduled calls, they are grateful that someone genuinely listens to them and they are reporting greater happiness by having someone who cares.

Nobody should have to feel lonely or isolated and Five Good Friends will continue to make it our mission to ensure that we are accessible to give these people the ability to access connection and supports where necessary.

Start with a Smile.

So how can you address loneliness in your community? Smile!

At the moment, given that we need to maintain social distancing, the simplest way to offer friendship is a smile. If you’re in Melbourne you now need to do that with your eyes! Eyes can deliver as much warmth as a smile. If you walk past someone, smile, even when you are socially distancing. If you see a neighbour in the street, smile! Random Acts of Kindness are another way to approach people who may be lonely and make them feel valued.

Being warm and kind are powerful actions and some of the most rewarding and fulfilling as well. There is research to show that smiling and random acts of kindness increase endorphins (the happy hormones) in both the person delivering the smile and the recipient - so what’s to lose? These are simple gestures with a powerful effect and just one small way that you can help combat loneliness.

Please contact us to discuss how we can offer support for you at home at 1300 787 581.

Written by: Sam Carson, Commercial Director

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