This forum, attended by over 200 was aimed at highlighting the issue of loneliness and social disconnection and provided real life examples of community-based responses. A recent national report on Loneliness highlighted that 1 in 4 homes in Australia is now a single person dwelling and this is expected to be 1 in 3 in the next 25 years. What a massive cultural change this is compared with just 15 years ago.
The Mornington Peninsula has the most aged demographic in Victoria. Whilst the focus may very well skew to older folk, the guest speakers emphasised that loneliness and social disconnection are not simply issues associated with age. Young people in the 15 to 25 age group are also particularly vulnerable.
Tim Costello emphasised that as a community it is our responsibility to reach-out and offer a helping hand if we suspect someone is lonely.
Bec Lee from Beyond Blue shared how to open a conversation with someone who may be struggling with loneliness for whatever reason. Dr Michelle Lim supported the anecdotal evidence with statistics gleaned from a major research project she recently completed, confirming that social disconnection can be very debilitating and often the individual may not be able or indeed choose to reach-out for the help that is available. Stigma about loneliness also makes it even more difficult for an individual to open up and share their situation.
Our eminent speakers offered tools for attendees to take away and to put into action in a practical way within their community. Much of it comes down to our own neighbourhoods – the friendly wave and conversation can make a big difference. Bec Feldman and Klaus Veil from Neighbourhood Connect gave examples from other neighbourhoods. Victoria Wells from To-Turn-a-Page emphasised how reading books to others can play a role too.
A dozen community groups manned tables at the back of the hall to facilitate social connections over refreshments at the end of the evening.
Thank you to our Event Partners for the evening
Mornington Peninsula Shire, Australian Coalition to End Loneliness Scientific Advisory Committee, Beyond Blue, Radio RPP, Neighbourhood Connect, To-Turn-a-Page, MS Visitors Service, Padua College, Woodleigh School, Mornington Men’s Shed, Creative Sweat, Recipe for Success at Mornington Secondary College, Mornington Rotary, Peninsula Legal Centre, Mt Martha Rotary, Bus Campaigners, Mornington Rose Garden, Mornington Civic Bowls Club, Community Visitors Scheme (via Mornington Police), St Macartan’s Church, L2P Program, Mornington Church of Christ, Mornington Community Information and Support Centre.