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Bolton Clarke joins national collaboration to end loneliness

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Leading health and aged care provider Bolton Clarke is partnering with Ending Loneliness Together to tackle one of the nation’s biggest health challenges, loneliness.

As part of the collaboration, Bolton Clarke Research Institute Head of Research Judy Lowthian will join the Ending Loneliness Together Advisory Committee, which includes research and industry partners from across Australia with a focus on a co-ordinated national response to loneliness.

Dr Lowthian said she was delighted at the opportunity to work with Ending Loneliness Together and build on Bolton Clarke’s collaborative work to support social connection.

“Social connection is one of the central pillars of our research, with evidence-informed programs and collaborations in this area a focus across Bolton Clarke,” she said.

“It’s a key issue across the life course – we know isolation causes a lot of health issues and that social connection works to protect against these things.

“Recently COVID-19 has also had a huge negative impact on loneliness and social isolation, meaning there is an even greater need for a co-ordinated and research-based response that recognises the vital importance of social connection for our nation’s health.

“For example, we know that if older people are isolated they can start to deteriorate physically, which we are seeing among our own home care client base where falls among older people living alone have skyrocketed during COVID-19 isolation.”

Key Bolton Clarke research-based initiatives underway to support connection include:

  • HOW-R-U? volunteer peer telephone support program which is now also being piloted in Canada
  • Connecting Communities to Care – a four-year co-designed social prescribing program that aims to enable community-wide social connection to improve health and wellbeing for isolated older people in the South East Melbourne Primary Health Network area
  • Life Stories Program including story circles and intergenerational storytelling to connect people living in residential aged care with their memories and their communities
  • Being Your Best frailty program providing in-home interventions to rebuild mobility and social connection, particularly for people who have been isolated as a result of COVID-19 restrictions
  • Conversation as Therapy Pin project with RMIT, developing and piloting a wearable pin that detects the presence or absence of conversation and allows early intervention for people experiencing social isolation. The project won Innovation of the Year – Product at the 7th Asia Pacific Eldercare Awards.
  • Let’s Dig In! Therapeutic horticulture program in partnership with Soil to Supper to promote social connection in residential aged care

Ending Loneliness Together Chairperson Dr Michelle Lim said: “There is no better time to address loneliness and social isolation in our communities. Australia is now focused on social recovery, repairing the connections we have and rebuilding new connections.  We must work together, unite with one voice and support evidence-based initiatives and activities to tackle loneliness across all ages”

Dr Lim will be among top national and international policy makers, academics and service providers at Bolton Clarke’s online 2022 Social Connection Symposium on 4 March.

Register here.