A number of recent studies have indicated connections between loneliness and psychological distress as a result of social isolation, particularly amongst older generations. But with a helping hand, older Australians are beginning to embrace the world of social media and the shift is no more evident than with 82-year-old Gloria from Cabramatta. After receiving an iPad for her birthday, she quickly learnt the basics of Facebook thanks to her local CatholicCare support worker, Monica. Living alone now poses no barrier for Gloria when it comes to communication – with the social media platform allowing her constant connectivity with her family and friends.
Monica said, “Every week when I would visit Gloria, we’d take about 20 minutes to sit down and take lessons on the iPad. At first, she said it was impossible for someone her age to learn how to use one but now she’s on Facebook every chance she gets. She knows the basics of navigating the platform – how to comment, like, share and send messages. It helps her keep up in touch with family and friends and keeps her connected to the outside world. And if I see her on it then I know she’s OK.”
But technology is just one solution that can bridge the gap between loneliness and socialisation. The older generations, those of 65 years and over, make up 3.5 million of the country’s population and this number continues to grow. Even though they may have other family members living in the house with them as in Gloria’s situation, younger family members may be out all day at work and so isolation can be a sizeable issue. Gloria feels she can connect with the world and have a laugh. “I love looking at funny animal videos on Facebook,” she reports with a giggle.
CatholicCare Sydney CEO, Mark Phillips, commented,
“Providing Gloria with the knowledge she needs to keep her independence and stay connected in the digital age is one solution in diminishing the feelings of loneliness but it’s not the only one. Beyond social media, for example, we offer a range of services such as shopping assistance and in-home care, whilst our volunteers love nothing better than improving people’s day with a personal visit. Fundamentally, we want to build trusting, meaningful and real relationships with our clients –because although social media is a great communicative tool, nothing beats the powerful effect of real-life interaction.”
The damaging effects of social isolation, particularly amongst the older generations, is very real and we all have a role to play in assisting the aging population to connect and engage in a social environment.” Said Mr Phillips.
CatholicCare Sydney assists people to live and thrive in both South West and wider Sydney. For more information about CatholicCare’s services contact the Customer Service Team on 13 18 19 or visit www.catholiccare.org.