Reach out and con­nect with el­derly

Be a re­la­tion­ship builder – get to know the older peo­ple in your neigh­bour­hood.

Central Otago Mirror - - YOUR PAPER, YOUR PLACE -

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.

SUP­PLIED

You can make your neigh­bour­hood a great place for older peo­ple to live.

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