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Increased social networking reduces COVID-19-induced loneliness on elders, survey reveals

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social networking for the elderly

COVID-19 in itself is not necessarily leading to an increase in loneliness if coupled with social networking, data from a survey conducted on elder people living in retirement homes has revealed.

In a media release, researchers from the Griffith University said that “while wellbeing is predicted to decrease with higher levels of loneliness during COVID-19, our findings show that higher levels of social networking reduce the negative feelings and experiences of loneliness.”

“Our preliminary findings point to the conclusion that COVID 19 in itself is not necessarily leading to an increase in loneliness if coupled with social networking. This finding is significant as it appears that on average participants of the Wellness Survey across Melville Cares, MercyCare, Alchera Living, Astley care and SouthCare have not suffered significant decreases in their ability to maintain their social network and generally feel connected to their communities despite the difficult climate,” they said.

Overall, the findings indicate that higher levels of hope, resilience and social networking experienced by the person, resulted in a higher level of personal wellbeing.

The Wellness survey is part of an evidence base for an Intergenerational Practice Pilot to be conducted in 2021 through a collaboration between Griffith University and WA Community Organisations – MercyCare and residents at Mercy Village and Magis students at John XXIII College.

The survey was conducted by Griffith University researchers consisting of Professor Emeritus Anneke Fitzgerald, Business, Strategy and Innovation, Dr Gaery Barbery, Health Services Management, Gabriela Di Perna, Business Strategy and Innovation, Dr Katrina Radford, Business Strategy and Innovation, Associate Professor Neil Harris, Public Health, and Dr Jennifer Cartmel, Human Services and Social Work.

The Griffith Well-being Survey, part of the WA Intergenerational Practice Pilot, explores the level of wellbeing experienced by older people living independently, especially in terms of loneliness and resilience in the current climate. The aim of the well-being survey is to explore the general state of well-being of older people in Australia during COVID-19.

Surveys were conducted between August and December 2020. Over 450 surveys were collected at Melville Cares, and Astley Cares as part of the Social Support Group services through the Commonwealth Home Support Program (CHSP). In addition, surveys were collected at, Mercy Village, Mercy Cares Retirement Village and Alchera Living and South Care.

Where necessary, the surveys responses were collected by staff and volunteers at the various homes, using face-face and phone interviews and a number of participants completed the survey independently. Conducting the surveys via one on one interviews not only produced valuable data, the individual conversations held between staff and older people created an opportunity for heartfelt conversation and reflection, leading to overwhelmingly positive feedback from members of staff and participants alike.

The aim of the pilot is to investigate the connections made between older and young people through a virtual intergenerational learning program. The WA Intergenerational Practice Pilot involves the development, implementation and evaluation of a virtual intergenerational learning program specifically designed to benefit both children and older people building on previous work undertaken in NSW.

The pilot will consist of older residents and students participating in a specific intergenerational learning program conducted over 6 hours of shared learning activities, using video conferencing technology. The sessions will be facilitated by MercyCare staff trained in Intergenerational Care and by the Magis Coordinator at John XXIII College.

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