There is something comforting about walking into the familiar space, perhaps the one you were raised in or raised others in, and seeing that some things never change. Lingering photographs decorate the same tables, patterned cushion covers adorn the same seats and a familiar family member or friend resides in the same corner of the same room as they do on every other day which is just the same.
As our society grips at living longer and looking younger, we are steered to dismiss the elderly as a simple burden. The result is the extreme rise of a huge portion of our community suffering from extreme loneliness and social isolation.
Over this past week, a video of elderly interacting with children has struck a cord with millions and gone viral.
The video, a preview of a larger documentary, displays an American nursing home which has added a childcare to encourage residents to ‘enjoy living again’ and currently has 60 million views on Facebook.
As awareness for social isolation in the elderly rises, the government has increased the funding for services aimed at counteracting the effects of a lack of mobility from disabilities such as arthritis and walking impediments.
According to ABS data released in 2013, men aged 85 and over had the highest rate of suicide of any age group in Australia.
Flexi Care is a non-profit organisation aimed at keeping older Australians active, social and happy.
One of the Flexi Care volunteers, David Woodcock, decided to start volunteering for the organisation when he realised that he could not depend on family members to see him every day.
“The last time I was truly lonely was a Christmas day after I had gotten two knee replacements,” he said.
“My family went to my mother-in-law’s and I wasn’t able to leave the house. That was when I last felt lonely, purely from a lack of mobility.”
The Flexi Care volunteer coordinator, Wendy Woltmann, understands that immobility is a prominent issue with supporting the elderly to leave the house and be active in social outings that they might not otherwise have access to.
“We try to make sure that their lack of mobility is not an issue, we always have spare wheelchairs or wheelie walkers and accessible means of transport,” she said.
While organisations like Flexi Care are forming unmeasurable bearings on participating older people’s lives, the statistics of elderly Australians who do not leave their home as often as they would like are still staggering and the negative effects of this are more researched and prominent than ever before.