The best present this holiday period is presence
Despite advances in technology and the increasing connectedness it brings, Bupa ANZ’s Medical Services Director, Dr Tim Ross is encouraging people to put down their phone during the festive season and check in on a loved one.
“I recently read a comment from the Aged Care Minister, Ken Wyatt who said that around 40 per cent of people in aged care homes never get visitors,” Dr Ross said.
“Recent research has found that loneliness can be just as, if not more lethal than smoking 15 cigarettes a day.”
“Loneliness presents a big risk for premature death, particularly in older people and can be associated with depression and a faster rate of cognitive decline and dementia.”
“Older people are most susceptible to feeling loneliness especially when we’re all busy shopping for last minute Chrissy presents, which is why the best present you can give this year is presence,” he said.
From improving our health and happiness to promoting a sense of belonging, boosting mood and making friends, the case for volunteering is strong which is why Bupa's volunteer program is so powerful in combatting loneliness in some of our residents who may not get regular visitors.
Loneliness isn't the same thing as being alone. Some isolation is good for your mental wellbeing. But Dr Ross says that being alone needs to be a choice in order for it to be healthy.
“Older people who want companionship yet lack visitors are more likely to experience the physical and emotional effects of being alone.”
We live in a time where many people have hundreds of social media connections, but it's clear as day that those connections aren't a cure for our loneliness. It is more about the quality of the connections than the quantity.
“Technology can help or hurt, it's simply a tool but for too many people technology has led to substituting online connections for offline in-person encounters and for older people who are not tech savvy and grew up without social media, the reality is bleak.”
Financial woes, health scares, and everyday issues can take a bigger emotional toll on people who lack social and emotional support.
"As a society, we have grown our Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat friends, but our personal connections and interactions have deteriorated.”
“If you or a loved one are struggling to combat loneliness, seek professional help by either going to see your GP or head to www.beyondblue.org.au for tips on how to maintain a positive mind-set or feel free to call our aged care support line on 1800 957 237.”
“Depression and other mental health issues can cause you to feel disconnected which can create a self-perpetuating cycle that can be difficult to break, while not easy, with the right support, wellness is possible,” he said.