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How to reach out to isolated and elderly people

by Chloe Baird

In these strange and uncertain times where social distancing is the new norm, it is more important than ever for us to understand how loneliness and isolation can affect some of the people in our lives and in our community.

But even without self-isolation practices in place, some people in our community feel more isolated than others, and suffer from acute loneliness.

This is especially true for elderly members of the community, who may not be as tech-savvy as younger Aussies.

While the ‘loneliness epidemic’ has garnered increasing attention in Australia and overseas in the past few years, it is becoming more evident than ever during the last few months. That’s why it’s important that you know how to reach out to isolated people who may be feeling the strain of loneliness at this crucial time.

What are the most common reasons for people feeling lonely or isolated?

There are many reasons people may feel lonely or isolated, even if they appear to be surrounded by others. It may not be immediately obvious that these people feel this way, as it is an unseen problem. 

The reasons people can feel isolated or lonely are many and varied. People could feel this way because:

  • Their friends and/or family have moved away because of work, housing affordability, or various other reasons.
  • They have had to relocate to a new area where they don’t know anyone.
  • There are other demands in their life that keep them preoccupied, such as being the primary carer for a sick or disabled relative.
  • They are living with a mental health condition/s (such as depression or anxiety) that affects their ability to socialise, which can also bring feelings of isolation.
  • Having a naturally shy and introverted personality.
  • If a person is physically disabled, it could make it more difficult for them to get out and socialise with people.

How can you help someone who is feeling lonely or isolated?

When someone is feeling lonely or isolated, it can sometimes be hard to reach out to them because they are probably feeling pretty low, and have found it difficult to connect with others in the past. That’s why you might need to put in a little effort if you want to help someone who is feeling really lonely.

Ways that you can reach out to someone who is feeling lonely or isolated include:

  • Check in on them on a regular basis. Pick up the phone and send them a text or give them a call to see how they’re doing.
  • If you think someone might be lonely, invite them to hang out. This could be for a cup of coffee or a relaxing walk. If you or they are concerned about social distancing rules, then you can hang out virtually over video chat.
  • Send snail mail. Even though it’s old-fashioned, you can’t deny how fun it can be receiving a special letter in the mail from a friend.
  • Teach someone how to use social media if they’re not familiar with it already. Show them how to connect online with family and friends and groups they may be interested in.
  • Stay optimistic around them. When someone is feeling lonely, they are probably feeling down and not terribly positive about themselves or their situation. Keep them buoyed up and try to help them find some silver linings.
  • And finally, just make sure that you’re really listening to them. Put your phone away and give them your undivided attention. There is more to being a good listener than just hearing what the other person is saying; it’s also about reading between the lines and really focusing on what the other person is saying.

How to help people on a professional level?

If you’re a naturally empathetic person, a good listener, and want to help people, then you could consider a career in aged care.

Open Colleges’ Certificate III in Individual Support will help you develop the skills and knowledge you need to enter the role of a care and support worker in the community and residential aged care sector.

A career as a support worker can be rewarding, fulfilling and can offer you stability in a growing industry.

Our Certificate III in Individual Support is a blended learning course, which means it is made up of online and on-campus training. This means that you get the best of both worlds – flexibility and hands-on experience.

Please note: Work placement opportunities are available in South Australia with our industry leading Aged Care partner, Southern Cross Care (SA, NT & VIC) Inc. Find out more here.

Looking for more? You can also read our blogs on fun activities for seniors and more information about becoming an Aged Care Support Worker.

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