Suncare Community Services has more capacity to drive down social isolation and loneliness in older Queenslanders, after Eastern Star Foundation generously funded a brand-new car, to help volunteers reach more people, especially those living in remote areas.
One in four older Australians live alone, which is considered a risk factor for social isolation and loneliness and Suncare Community Services is dedicated to changing that through programs which reconnect people back into their community through public participation and digital connection.
Suncare Community Services Chairman Mario Pennisi said the Community Visitors Scheme requires the new car to support the aged community who are susceptible to isolation and loneliness.
“Suncare staff identify community members who need that extra support and the Suncare volunteers meet with those people at their homes or in a neutral setting and start by having a simple chat,” Mr Pennisi said.
“These conversations build rapport and develop trust so the volunteer is able to then set the participant up with a range of activities and tools to help them engage better in the community.
“From there, we guide them on a pathway that is suitable for the participant, either developing their skills to become digitally connected or finding opportunities for them to participate meaningfully within their community via volunteering or supporting a community project.
“The ultimate aim of this program is to provide friendship and companionship to older people, help develop social connections and networks and give participants the skills to increase their connection to community.
“Regular connection with others has proven to be effective in diminishing the effects of social isolation. These effects include an increased chance of developing anxiety and depression, elevated blood pressure, increased chance of developing dementia as well as a range of physical health implications.”
In order to expand the service and reach more people, Eastern Star Foundation awarded a $45,000 grant for a new car and to cover running costs for a year as part of their annual grant program.
Eastern Star Foundation Chairman Jonathan Nantes said the initiative aligned with the foundation’s mission to provide funding for evidence-based programs and initiatives that help the aged to remain independent, practice choice, participate in their community, have a support network and experience healthy ageing.
“Eastern Star Foundation is committed to empowering those who enhance the quality of life of our ageing communities,” Mr Nantes said.
“We are proud to partner with Suncare Community Services on this important initiative that will enable so many older members of the community to remain socially connected and lead more independent lives.
Suncare Community Services client 89 years old Frances Lawrence from Buddina said the service has helped to make her life so much better.
“The service has been a blessing for me as I have been visiting my husband twice a week who is in permanent residential care since February 2019,” said Mrs Lawrence.
“I originally accessed transport services with Suncare through the Commonwealth Home Support System at a time I was feeling quite isolated and alone. Now the care has been transitioned onto a Home Care Package in May 2021.”
The Suncare Community Services Community Visitors Scheme currently helps more than 40 participants across Sunshine Coast and Brisbane with plans to increase to 250 participants from the Gold Coast to Rockhampton.
“As the program is supported by our volunteer workforce, the number of participants is limited which is why we are always looking for more volunteers to be a part of our team,” Mr Pennisi said.
“Suncare is focussed on making people’s lives better; we want our customers to not only remain independent, we want them to actively choose their life. We continually strive to find ways to support the choices they make.”