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Isolation and loneliness key issues for elderly

Anne Browning, Sheila Gardner, and Nick Browning are all members of Tumut's Lifelong Learners.
Anne Browning, Sheila Gardner, and Nick Browning are all members of Tumut’s Lifelong Learners.

The NSW Government has released their Ageing Strategy for the coming four years, and one of their key priorities is community connection.

The authors of the strategy consulted extensively with seniors, and identified loneliness and isolation as key issues for people as they age.

Nick Browning, who runs Lifelong Learners in Tumut, said that it is vital older people make the effort to stay involved in the community.

“There’s a multitude of avenues within this town to stay engaged – there’s View Club, Probus, there’s a Scrabble Club, there’s croquet, golf, there’s a multitude of ways, but it’s up to the individual to get involved and take charge of their own life,” he said.

“There are cases where people tend to stay at home and think the world should come to them, but for happy ageing you need to have a positive outlook, it’s the most important thing. You need to endeavour to get involved in the community.

“There are issues with mobility, but in our case we make sure people can get there, there’s shared transport, and sharing transport is another part of ageing well. Most services around town have ramps, most facilities are aged friendly.”

The Australian population is ageing rapidly. By 2030, one in three residents in NSW will be over 50.

That has major implications for many areas of governments, particularly in health care and social services, as more people depend on the pension as a source of income.

However, for local communities, one of the biggest issues is ensuring older members are able to contribute and socialise as they leave the workforce.

President of Tumut Art Society Glenyce Francis said that getting involved in clubs and societies is a good way for people to make new friends and have a bit of a chat.

She herself moved from Canberra to Tumut six years ago, and found herself learning about the community, and meeting people with different perspectives, through the Art Society.

“The art society for me is about sharing what you do, and what you do also is that you learn from others and talk about anything from politics to children to life in general,” she said.

“It’s been fantastic for me. The other thing about arts and crafts is that it crosses all barriers – economic, social, cultural, disability – you get such a cross-section of the community there, which is very good in a social sense.

“There’s quite a few people there who use it I think as a way of getting out of the house, mixing with other people, sharing their art, and learning from others, and it gives them something for themselves.” S

nowy Valleys Council member Trudy Crawford said that the local council is responsible for organising Seniors Week, but besides that services for older people in the community were largely in the hands of private organisations.

There’s plenty of them around – just ask May Doon, who has been involved in organisations such as the Lions Club for over 30 years.

In fact, May was President of the Art Society back when their annual art show was held in the RSL car park.

She said the key to staying social is to put yourself out there and take the initiative.

“It depends on how much a person wants to be involved, but there are things for senior people where they don’t necessarily have to be able to do things, but they can be part of different organisations,” she said.

“I think sometimes when people get a bit older they think ‘I can’t do this, I can’t do that,’ so they just sit around at home and mope – and the more they do that the more they get a bit down. So I think if they can get out in the community, and there are different groups here that they can do that.

“When you’re up town smile and say hello to people. You never know what that can do. Go to movies and concerts! I think sometimes people need someone to say ‘come on, let’s go and do something,’ but you can do it yourself.”

The Ageing Strategy identified five priorities for the ageing population: living active and healthy lives, financial security and opportunities to remain in the workforce, access to affordable and appropriate housing, getting around, and staying connected to the community.

Local community organisations can be found at http://www.tumut.nsw.gov.au/f.ashx/Content/CommunityDirectory121.pdf and also at https://www.dosomethingnearyou.com.au/2720/tumut.