Eight ways you can check in with an isolated older person

Age Matters
10 September 2020

Australian men aged over 85 have the highest suicide rate in Australia. We often talk about suicide rates in younger people, but with tragic numbers of older men taking their own lives we need to extend the conversation and support to older people.

Our team regularly supports older people who are vulnerable. We talk talk to older men who are lonely and isolated who don’t always realise there are people around them who’d be interested to hear their story.

An important aspect of mental and emotional wellbeing is meaningful connection with others to prevent social isolation. If there is someone in your life that you’re concerned about, here are eight tips on how you can let them know you’re there for them.

1. Check in

Find a method and frequency to connect with the older people in your life that makes them feel comfortable. It might be a phone call, a text, an email, a note at their door or a chat (from an appropriate distance) over the fence.

2. Listen

Let them know they’re in your thoughts, that you always have time for a chat and that they can ask if they need anything.

3. Practical support

Consider offering to make extra food when cooking for yourself and leaving it at their front door at a time that suits them (follow good food hygiene). Practical support is a great way to open up a conversation and connect as well as being helpful. We’ve found most people love to try and find a way to return the favour!

4. Link

Consider if you can help setup deliveries for medications from the chemist or booking a telehealth appointment with their doctor. Many of these services require some technical assistance to set up but are very helpful once in place.

5. Connect them with professional care

It might be an awkward conversation to start with but there are plenty of organisations that can help link people to professional support services. If you’ve ever used a service yourself this can be a great way to recommend how helpful it was to talk to someone. There are some crisis support lines at the bottom of the page.

6. Inform

Share good-quality, reliable and up-to-date information. Government and organisational resources are a great place to start.  A suggestion is BeyondBlue for their resources on supporting older people’s mental health.

7. Bridge the digital divide

If someone you know is isolated but has access to a tablet or computer, think about sending them (trusted) links to things like online crosswords and puzzles, music, podcasts, or virtual tours of museums and other popular tourist destinations. The online space can offer connection even when we are physically apart.

8. Empower

When making an offer to help, make sure to do so in a way that acknowledges their independence and shows respect for their experience and decision-making. Value the wisdom they have likely gained through times of significant stress or hardship, and call on that wisdom when looking for solutions to a problem, for they may have ideas that you haven’t considered.

If you or a friend need crisis support, phone:

1800 RUOKDAY (1800 7265 329)

Lifeline 13 11 14

MensLine Australia 1300 78 99 78

beyondblue 1300 22 4636