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We wrote a little while ago on the topic of isolation and loneliness. Little did we know then how the social landscape, and the aged care landscape in particular, would change to make this topic even more relevant and important.

There is a difference between isolation generally and loneliness. Some people don’t mind being on their own, or leading solitary or even isolated lives, provided that this is their choice. When isolation is forced on them by the actions of others (even well-intentioned actions), however, it becomes loneliness. Being socially isolated when it is not our choice, and the consequent feelings of loneliness, creates other feelings of emptiness and loss; a feeling of being alone and unwanted. This can have consequences.

Governments around the world are implementing social distancing and isolation measures as a proper means to contain the spread of COVID-19. This is appropriate. Yet, we need to be mindful of the potential significance of these COVID-19 measures on older people. As reported in a recent US study, there is substantial evidence that links social isolation and loneliness to major psychological and physical morbidities, and lower perceived quality of life. Social isolation is likely to have wide-ranging effects for everyone; however, it is likely to disproportionately affect older people.

Generation Care knows that residential aged care facilities are aware of these issues and they are doing all that they can to address them. The Australian Government, through its expansion of telehealth services, has also acted. We applaud all these efforts. We know through our own well-established Video Call servicing that telehealth offers opportunities to maintain connections.

We are also reaching out to elderly people that we know – clients, family, friends – making personal contact with them, reminding them that we are thinking of them. Any connection, even a brief one, helps. Everything helps. We need to make a collective effort to ensure that the health and well-being of older people are protected at this time, both in response to COVID-19 and to the consequences of the necessary containment actions.