Reach out and connect with elderly
Be a relationship builder – get to know the older people in your neighbourhood.
Many older people have good social networks, but isolation and loneliness are a daily reality for some.
Recent research shows that around 60,000 older people in New Zealand are likely to be severely lonely.
One Age Concern client who felt desperate for more company shared: ‘‘I live alone. No family near. My wife died. I’m the last of eight. I’m 92 years old.’’
Friendly contact with neighbours can be very important for older people who have trouble getting out and about, but people of all ages can benefit from getting to know the people around them.
Louise Rees, Age Concern New Zealand’s national adviser –
Social Connection Service, says, ‘‘Getting to know my older neighbours was wonderful. They were here when their house and ours were built in the 1950s, and filled us in on the history of the street. We now know why there is a rimu floor in our garage. It’s where the neighbourhood dances were held!
‘‘Our neighbours were great gardeners, so we got to know them at first by chatting over the garden fence. They were always ready to share their knowledge, and gave us the occasional gentle steer on how to control the weeds. They are no longer living next door but every time I see the rimu floor in the garage, it makes me smile as I think of them dancing.’’
So what can you do to make your neighbourhood a great place for older people to live?
Do you have an older neighbour next door or close by? With International Day of Older Persons having just passed (October 1) – now is the perfect time to connect with them. It can be as simple as a chat over the fence, popping around with a few flowers from the garden or some baking, or inviting them around for a cup of tea. Start with a simple smile and hello when you’re out walking or at the shops. It could make the difference to someone’s day.
Think about getting out and about. Transport can be a big problem for older people, especially if they’ve given up driving. Take a few moments to think about what you would miss out on if you didn’t have a car, and whether you’re in a position to offer a lift to someone local from time to time.
Join Neighbourly. If your older neighbour uses a computer, tell them about it, and encourage them to join. If they don’t – keep them updated with information that may be of interest to them. Knowing who lives around us, and what’s happening helps everyone, including older people, to feel safer and to be more connected.
If you have more time you could make a difference by volunteering to visit a lonely person in your neighbourhood. Local Age Concerns across New Zealand are always looking for people to visit and you could be just the person they need.
To join in the stand against ageism, you can play a part by acting as an Age Concern Dignity Champion. Learn more at www.ageconcern.org.nz. Older neighbours need communities that support them to feel safe, included, and able to contribute. Knowing our neighbours helps that to happen.
You can make your neighbourhood a great place for older people to live.