Social isolation in its many forms
By Jennifer Dew, Twelve & Thirteen Program Manager As I map out our next C Care volunteer event for our Thirteen cohort, I am struck by the fact that delivering meals to those that are doing it tough won’t be the main event. Yes of course, having a nutritious meal delivered to those who need it is always welcomed, but the nugget of gold is the opportunity to have a chat and form a connection. A number of C Care clients may not get the opportunity to speak to anyone for days. But why don't they get out and about and make friends?
Some of these clients have come from backgrounds where English isn't their first language. As a tween immigrant from Kuala Lumpur in the early 80’s, I know first hand that when your accent isn’t Aussie enough, some people may pretend not to understand you, which leaves one feeling dismissed and insignificant. In addition, some clients may distrust their neighbours or authorities in their new home after facing persecution or corruption in their birth country.
Social isolation is defined as the absence of a wide social network of friends and family whom they can rely on. The two main groups affected most by social isolation in our society includes the elderly, and more surprisingly, those between the ages of 15-25. A 2015 VicHealth study showed that one in eight young people aged 16–25 reported a very high intensity of loneliness. Are our digital devices and social media once again to blame?
The health and social tolls caused by this isolation and loneliness has been well documented. Correlations have been found between social isolation and increased cardiovascular problems arising from inflammation and decreased sleep in our elderly. Mental illness in our young people is also on the rise.
Whilst the root causes of these social ills are complex and multi faceted, the way that C Care provides interventions is simple. Through forming trusting relationships with their clients, C Care creates multiple opportunities for them to feel connected via Shabbat dinners, planned activities and providing once a week regular visits [with the accompanying meal, fruit and snack].
Families have told us time and time again that through the shared family experience of giving that our program provides (and perhaps also spending a few hours away from digital media) that our tweens and teens walk away feeling more connected, positive and grateful for what they have. Whilst our young Twelve and Thirteen volunteers are making a real difference to so many, I can’t help but feel that they too, will greatly benefit from a year of giving.