Lone person households in Australia are predicted to grow from 2.1 million in 2011 to close to 3.4 million in 2036.
In Queensland, about 10 per cent of people over 65 are socially isolated and an additional 12 per cent of older Queenslanders are at risk of social isolation. In Victoria 185,000 older people are likely to be experiencing loneliness by 2031.
Research has shown that social isolation is a greater health risk than smoking.
Health consequences of feeling isolated from others include disrupted sleep, elevated blood pressure, increases in the stress hormone cortisol, reduced immunity, increased depression and lower overall subjective wellbeing.
The Bolton Clarke Research Institute is building on its work to combat social isolation by hosting two Social Connection in Older Age Symposia, to be held in Melbourne on 22 March and in Brisbane on 4 April.
“Addressing social isolation is a key area of research for BCRI,” Senior Research Fellow Liz Cyarto said.
“It’s a significant public health issue – we don’t have a Minister for Loneliness yet, but the UK already does.
“We are hoping by hosting these symposia we can raise awareness, share what the research is showing us about loneliness and its consequences and look at some of the interventions that are being trialled to build connections.”
In addition to covering Bolton Clarke research and initiatives such as the Older Women Living Alone project and the One Good Street social enterprise initiative, the Brisbane symposium will bring together expert presenters including Professor Cath Haslam (University of Queensland), who has developed the Groups 4 Health intervention with people including residential aged care residents and older people living at home.
Other speakers will include Dr Genevieve Dingle (University of Queensland), whose projects include the Live Wires choir with retirement residents, COTA Queensland CEO Mark Tucker-Evans and Mark Bunting from the Men of League Foundation.
In Melbourne, the event will be opened by Commissioner for Senior Victorians Gerard Mansour, with presenters including Dr Catherine Barrett, Dr Michelle Lim and Prof Barry Golding.
To find out more and register to attend, go to https://www.boltonclarke.com.au/symposium