Home Alone – The Challenge of Social Isolation. “When will older people happily tell you how they’re really feeling?”

Kevin Taylor, The Carer’s Phone

 

Abstract

Social isolation can lead to numerous and significant health problems for older persons living independently within their communities. With a growing number of older persons choosing to remain in their own homes it is anticipated that social isolation will continue to challenge the health, wellbeing and quality of life of older Australians in both rural and urban environments.

Co-design of a unique Australian Telehealth service aimed at supporting HACC clients through a wellness framework began in early 2014. A core element of the service was enabling the client to ‘self-report’, providing valuable feedback to the service provider and ensuring the older person continued to ‘age well’ within their community.

An evaluation of the service was completed in January 2015 focusing on its ability to complement existing Day Activity Programs run by a South Australian rural provider delivering services across an area of 35,000 sq/kms with limited or infrequent contact with clients. The evaluation included a survey of day activity clients, interviews with program staff and managers, several client case studies, interviews with the service designers and an analysis of service delivery data over a seven month period.

The evaluation findings confirm a number of important areas where Telehealth can address issues relating to social isolation for older people choosing to remain in their own home including the evaluation’s most significant findings that older Australians:

  • Are willing to talk about their concerns as they relate to living independently in their own home;
  • Will happily disclose those concerns if prompted to do so in a non-threatening and impersonal way;
  • Are prepared to engage with innovative technology if that technology is well introduced and enables them to remain living safely and confidently in their own home;
  • Place high value on being supported to remain living in their own home.

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