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It’s well known that social connectedness is key to overall wellbeing for all of us. Its impact on older people, however, is even more profound.
Older Australians who remain socially connected to their family and wider community experience a greater sense of belonging, higher levels of self-esteem, and improvements in their physical and mental wellbeing. Social engagement reduces loneliness, anxiety, depression and stress. It improves cognitive function and can even decrease or delay the likelihood of memory loss and dementia.
As an independent support worker, your support can go a long way to foster your client’s emotional wellbeing. One of those ways is to encourage clients to pursue activities that keep them busy, active and engaged. In Australia, lots of organisations exist to invite, welcome and include older men and women in their goings-on.
You can take inspiration from our monthly wrap up of interesting social events and activities for older Australians that is published on the Mable website.
You can help connect your older clients with the ideal social support organisation for them, help get them signed up and even take them along for an initial meeting. Ongoing, they may need support to prepare for a day out – or even a weekend getaway with the group – or they may need transportation to and from their gatherings.
Here are a few social support ideas to consider.
Probus South Pacific
With a tagline ‘fun and friendship in retirement’, Probus South Pacific is open to anyone (retired or semi-retired) who wants to participate in a range of activities with other members. Monthly meetings feature engaging guest speakers and provide an opportunity to meet and catch up with peers.
Activities may include dining out, group walks, trivia events, picnics, golf days, museum and gallery visits, travel and tours, high tea, arts and crafts, photography outings, river boat cruises, card or board game days, and international cultural celebrations.
Probus also provides members with exclusive discounts and offers from an array of participating businesses in the areas of travel, health, finance, and lifestyle and entertainment.
The Australian Men’s Shed Association supports nearly one thousand Men’s Sheds around the country. It was established in the 1980s as a way of enhancing the health and wellbeing of older men. It encourages social interaction and helps to reduce depression-related illness in elderly men.
Different sheds offer different activities but the common thread is manual tasks such as woodworking, metalwork, furniture restoration, gardening, bicycle repairs, computer recycling, beekeeping, toymaking, picture framing, welding, leatherwork and pottery.
Some Men’s Sheds work with local children, provide free services for community groups, offer a tool loan service and even teach others how to use power tools. They are hubs for older men to access health information, embrace military veterans, gather for chats, chess or billiards, and to promote remaining physically and mentally active.
Country Women’s Association
CWAs have been a backbone of remote and country areas across Australia in good and tough times. They are an active community of women who help to improve the lives of people in their regions and are famous for their cooking, handcrafts, friendship, community and connection.
Though it dates back to 1922, today, the CWA has city chapters as well. Women join to participate in cultural events, tours, competitions, fundraising and lobbying activities, baking, and supporting community groups with various activities.
Being out in the sunshine, getting some movement and learning new skills is a wonderful way of keeping active and social. Community gardens bring people together to grow food, share skills, transform disused land and foster pride in the local area. Some are designed to produce food for charities or to share amongst locals.
People who join a community garden can get involved in a range of activities, such as watering, planting, weeding, harvesting and distributing fruits and veggies, painting fences, keeping beehives, feeding chickens, and gathering eggs. More specialised skills might be needed such as fixing irrigation components, managing a worm farm and setting up an aquaponics system.
You can find a nearby community garden by searching here, or check your local area.
There is an endless array of social opportunities to be found on Meetup.com, a portal where organisers advertise their events. Would-be participants sign up for a Meetup.com account and can search in their local area for the kinds of activities they’d like to do.
Learn a new language, attend a poetry recital, go dancing, play board games, go to the races, join a book club, participate in discussions about current topics, or enjoy a meal out. There are also educational talks, wine tastings, exercise groups, comedy evenings, and countless other things that may capture your client’s interest.
How to suggest new activities for your client
First and foremost, always ask your clients what they would like to do. Find out their interests and hobbies and take it from there. It’s usually a good idea to start small. Suggest a short outing such as going to a café for a cappuccino or popping to the post office to post a birthday card.
Don’t rush your client into doing activities that might be out of their comfort zone. Make a point of having conversations about events close by that may be of interest and gently suggest giving it a go. In the meantime, here is a list of activities you can do with your client at home, virtually, or outdoors.
Mable’s latest events wrap-up for August and September 2022 has plenty of inspiration. And here’s a guide to summer activities for older Australians.
We hope these ideas are useful for you in increasing your clients’ social engagement.