Network helping counter loneliness

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Loneliness is an issue for many older people in the Upper Clutha and for the past four years, Community Networks Wanaka has been working to link older people with their community.

In 2013, research was undertaken into the needs of older people in the Upper Clutha. It showed that 65% lived alone and loneliness was reported as an issue for many, Community Networks Wanaka manager Kate Murray said.

The Alpine Community Development Trust carried out the research, which resulted in the formation of an older persons champions group from local community organisations and NGOs, she said.

The research found over a third (35%) said they spent no time with family, while 8% reported spending no time with friends. Twelve percent were unable, when asked, to identify someone they could call on in an emergency.

Respondents were invited to list the activities they were involved in and indicate the extent to which those activities made them feel part of the community; 10% indicated “not at all” and 21% chose “somewhat”.

“These statistics show a high risk factor for social isolation. Research shows that social isolation and loneliness experienced by older people can lead to serious health issues such as depression and anxiety, malnutrition and weight loss,” she said.

” It’s not healthy as a community to have lonely people. It would be easy for older people to be left sitting at home . . . but it’s very much a mutual thing . . . older people have experiences to offer us as well.”

Community Networks Wanaka runs several programmes including meals on wheels, visiting and cyber education programmes for older people.

“We are trying to make it easier for older people, without family, to be part of the community,” she said.