IN the season of goodwill, Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt is appealing for people to be more aware of the lonely after revealing he recently visited an aged care home where none of the residents had seen a visitor the entire year.
“This is a particularly distressing situation, despite the best efforts of the aged care staff,” he said.
“I have previously raised concerns that up to 40 per cent of aged care residents receive no visitors, but 100 per cent is completely unacceptable.
“So more than ever this Christmas, I am asking all Australians to reach out to people in residential aged care and relatives, friends, and community members everywhere in need of company.”
The Member for Hasluck, whose office is in Forrestfield, said he recently knocked on the door of an older man whose wife had died and his children had grown up and moved away.
“He broke down in tears, as he told me I was the first person he’d spoken to in more than a week,” he said.
“Another constituent, a young mother, burst into tears when she opened her door.
“It wasn’t because she didn’t like politicians, it was because after a relationship breakdown, she’d been so busy looking after her children, that she hadn’t spoken to another adult for days.”
Mr Wyatt raised the plight of the lonely on Sunday at the launch of Australian Red Cross’s Season of Belonging campaign, where he released results of the charity’s survey highlighting the extent of loneliness in the country.
“The survey indicated up to a quarter of us are lonely some or almost all of the time,” he said.
“This equates to up to 5.6 million people, with men over the age of 55 the most likely to feel the impact of loneliness, after divorces or separations.”
The survey also showed young men aged 18 to 34 are vulnerable to loneliness.
He said Australia is a caring society but as lives have become busier, too many people are left behind.
Josee Mather is an 80-year-old great grandmother who belongs to an army of volunteers in a community visitors scheme.
She moved from a country town in Victoria soon after her husband passed away to live with her daughter and son-in-law in Forrestfield.
“You are happier yourself to see when you can make people happy, it’s no good to be by yourself,” she said.
Mrs Mather visits residents weekly at a nearby retirement village with a group of women who belong to the Legion of Mary at St Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, in Maida Vale.
The group are volunteers at Southern Cross Care (SCC) Jeremiah Donovan House in Forrestfield.
“We make sure everyone in the home has a visitor at least once a year and we have a list of their birthdays,” she said.
“They are nice people, they like to talk and it’s nice to listen; I enjoy talking with them.”
Diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis 17 years ago, she refuses to let ill health dictate her life.
Mrs Mather said she understands the isolation loneliness can bring.
She migrated from Mauritius to Australia in 1968 and though she misses her late husband, said she is blessed to have four children, 11 grandchildren and three great grandchildren.
For more information on ways to tackle loneliness in the community, visit www.redcross.org.au/act.
People interested in volunteering with seniors at SCC should call 1300 669 189.
5 Step Season of Belonging
Say hello to someone new in the neighbourhood
Check on someone who may be in trouble
Be kind on social media