The answer may be on our doorstep
How neighbour-initiated care can change loneliness and isolation for older Australians
Matiu Bush, a Nurse Practitioner and Design Integration Lead at Bolton Clarke, one of Australia’s largest aged care providers, was announced as the winner of the Queensland University Senior Living Innovation Challenge for his social innovation, One Good Street.
One Good Street seeks to create opportunities for residents to make a positive difference in the lives of their senior neighbours. The One Good Street online platform is a support architecture for the tangible expression of local resident’s desire to do something positive for older neighbours. One Good Street aims to reduce loneliness in older residents, one street at a time.
“If we look at social isolation in older people through the lens of a market we can begin to design a marketplace for connection,” Matiu said. “Activities are practical, low commitment and you can join at short notice with the aim of developing a dense participation ecology around the older person”
A sense of connectedness to local communities, and of belonging to others, is an important antidote to loneliness for many older people.1 After the heat waves in Paris, Chicago, and the events in New York in 2001, reviews of elder deaths highlighted the importance of neighbourhood characteristics in preserving the lives of isolated older people. Socially isolated older persons had higher mortality rates in neighbourhoods with little social capital or networks of neighbour initiated-care than in equally socio-economic, but more socially-connected neighbourhoods. 2
One Good Street aims to reduce social isolation and loneliness in senior residents through local initiatives and to provide a platform of opportunities for people to offer their assistance to older residents. This emphasis on an ecology of activity is different from the current state which often is a network of single initiatives working in isolation. It’s a system Matiu describes as not organised to make the most of a community’s ideas and strengths.
“In our suburbs, a lonely and isolated older person’s day, week and month is determined by the many actions taken daily by neighbours, actions that can be influenced on what these neighbours believe about lonely and isolated older person’s future and their own role in improving it.
One Good Street’s online platform for neighbours to come together and through coordinated activities help reduce isolation and improve the social connectedness of older citizens that live in their neighbourhood. Matiu acknowledges that for One Good Street to succeed, it should solve several problems.
“It has to strengthen all the links in the chain that keep older residents independent in their own homes for as long as possible. Those links in the chain include family members, friends and carers, community nurses, GP’s and home support services.”
One Good Street is part of the urban renewal movement championing neighbour-initiated care. From starting an Air Con Club which helps older residents during the heat, to sharing aged care equipment through tool libraries, to casserole clubs that provide nutrition and connection.
The idea is to make streets better places to grow older in because the social media-connected people around the older person are actively working to make it so. The One Good Street project has been trialled in the Victorian suburbs of North Melbourne, Kensington and Flemington, and is slowly becoming part of the fabric of these neighbourhoods.
- Commissioner for Senior Victorians (2016). Ageing is everyone's business: a report on isolation and loneliness among senior Victorians. Melbourne Commissioner for Senior Victorians
- Social isolation and mortality. Andrew Steptoe, Aparna Shankar, Panayotes Demakakos,
Jane Wardle Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Apr 2013, 110 (15) 5797 5801; DOI:10.1073/pnas.1219686110
[Source: Matiu Bush, Nurse practitioner and Design Integration Lead at Bolton Clarke, Melbourne]