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Social connection a focus over the holiday period

HOW-R-U? volunteering program

The importance of social connection for older people continues to be a focus for Bolton Clarke’s corporate volunteering program in the approach to the festive season.

Bolton Clarke’s Community Partnerships Coordinator, Meg, says the organisation’s HOW-R-U? volunteering program – part of an extensive program of work to improve wellbeing through social connection - is more important than ever over the holiday period.

Building on previous work with recently hospitalised patients that was effective in reducing feelings of loneliness and isolation, Head of Research Judy Lowthian and team adapted HOW-R-U? by matching referred clients and residents with corporate volunteers from Bolton Clarke’s support centres for a 20-40 minute weekly social support call.

Since the program began, 110 volunteers have provided more than 2,000 calls totalling 38,400 minutes.

“The calls are especially beneficial to our participants around this time because when people are alone at Christmas they greatly value a call from a volunteer,” Meg said.

“It makes people realise that there is someone out there who is thinking of them and wishing them well.

“Some participants have told us that these phone calls are the only connection they have apart from when their nurse visits.”

The program, which this year won Volunteering Queensland’s Volunteering Impact Award, also provides frontline healthcare workers the opportunity to connect their clients with a way of having their mental health needs met with more social interactions.

“It gives the nurses the opportunity, if they come across someone who they think is isolated and lonely, to refer them to the program,” Meg says.

“It’s a way to have part of that need for connection met, which is very important for health and wellbeing.”

For corporate volunteer and Bolton Clarke support centre team member Abbie, her time in the program has offered an opportunity to connect directly with the people at the heart of the organisation’s work.

“It’s been great being able to volunteer through work and provide a meaningful human connection for people that are wanting more social interaction,” Abbie says.

“It can be hard to find time to volunteer in our busy lives, especially around this time of year, and it’s great to hear the participants stories and respect their life experience,” she says.