Social connection project to roll out in NSW

A new program delivering regular volunteer telephone calls to retirement village residents who feel socially isolated, will roll out across NSW to support wellbeing during COVID-19 restrictions. 

Bolton Clarke will adapt the research based HOW R U? peer support program to promote social connection for about 500 older people. Participants will be matched with a volunteer who will call them weekly or twice weekly over 12 weeks, or until social and physical distancing restrictions are lifted. 

The project is funded under the NSW Government’s Combatting Social Isolation for Seniors during COVID-19 Grant Program. 

Bolton Clarke Research Institute Principal Research Fellow Adj Prof Judy Lowthian said the program was based on a pilot she conducted in Melbourne with older people discharged from emergency departments and hospitals. 

“We know the importance of social connection for wellbeing – particularly at the moment,” Adj Prof Lowthian said. “With COVID-19 people are not having as much social contact as they did before.” 

Under the program, which is already operating in Victoria, Bolton Clarke will work with volunteer organisation Friends for Good to match older people with volunteers who have similar interests. 

“They provide social contact and talk about news, hobbies and shared interests. What we found in our initial program is that people felt they could tell their volunteer things they couldn’t discuss with their family, because there was a degree of anonymity. After 12 weeks we found people were waiting for the call and we were able to reduce feelings of loneliness and depression and improve wellbeing.” 

The program will be available to older people in the Lake Macquarie, Port Macquarie and Tweed-Hastings local government areas. 

About Bolton Clarke 

Bolton Clarke is the new face of RSL Care + RDNS. Together we have provided healthcare and aged care services for more than 200 years. We are one of the largest Australian owned and operated not- for-profit healthcare and independent living service providers, with a passion for ensuring our customers live the best possible life across home support, retirement living and residential aged care.

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