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Social Connection has big impact at Queensland Volunteering Awards

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Bolton Clarke’s focus on social connection has been recognised with the Bolton Clarke Research Institute’s ‘HOW-R-U?’ volunteer telephone peer support program taking out the Volunteering Impact award at today’s 2022 Queensland Volunteering Awards.

The HOW-R-U? Program forms a broader piece of the Institute’s extensive program of work to improve wellbeing for older people and communities through social connection.

Building on previous work with recently hospitalised patients that was effective in reducing feelings of loneliness and social 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.

Judy says the challenge is even greater as the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to be felt, including a loss of confidence to become involved in social activities.

“This project has only grown in relevance and importance over the past 12 months, with COVID and natural disasters continuing to isolate older people from their communities,” she said.

“Loneliness and social isolation have been shown to be more harmful to health than the effects of smoking 15 cigarettes a day, impacting cardiovascular health and increasing the risk of dementia.

“Telephone support has been found to reduce feelings of social isolation, loneliness and depression and to improve quality of life.”

“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.”