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The power of Community for the Aged during latest COVID-19 threat

If the last two years have taught us anything, it’s the power and importance of our home and those around us. But for the aged, this has come with its challenges as the risk of isolation has emerged for those who live alone.

Loneliness and social isolation are unfortunately common experiences for many seniors who live alone and have become major public health concerns over the years as the global population of elderly people grows. Research* conducted in 2018 suggests 13 per cent of Australian seniors aged 65-69 experience loneliness, with those over 80 more likely to be lonely than any other age group.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, lockdowns and a heightened risk of infection have prevented us from seeing our loved ones and friends and participating in our local communities like we used to. This physical separation combined with worry about the Coronavirus continues to have an ongoing impact on mental health.

Despite the many negativities and challenges experienced during the pandemic, the aged care sector has proven its unique ability to combat social isolation as providers offer a home within a community for the aged.

Alino Living is a group of three aged care providers on the Central Coast of New South Wales that harnessed its collaborative approach to increase the use of technology for residents to remain connected during COVID-19 restrictions. While visitors are now permitted within facilities, the last lockdown has taught us the importance of remaining connected.

“There has been a growing trend for older Australians to remain in their own homes as they age, but the global pandemic saw a shift in this thinking,” explained Alino Living Co-CEO, Justin Dover.

“Residential aged care communities in fact offer positive benefits in terms of reducing isolation and deconditioning as residents are able to remain connected with those within their village community and have access to activities and support by way of technology,” he continued.

Across its four locations, Alino Living used technology to allow residents to remain connected with families and loved ones, in addition to ensuring its care residents had access to entertainment and activities that remain in line with health directives.

“Catching up with family or friends virtually improved mood and helped ensure our residents retained the ability to converse and socialise normally. Families utilised our Zoom and FaceTime sessions to check in with loved ones and our wonderful team of care staff are always on hand to maintain socialisation with residents and reported back to families accordingly,” added Justin.

The crisis originating from the Coronavirus pandemic has made many understand the need for dedicated spaces for older aged Australians where assisted-care is available, and provisions are made for them to enjoy retirement the way it is meant to be – with entertainment, social interaction and an abundance of activities.

“We have certainly seen an increase in enquiry from families who have moved loved ones into residential aged care due to the pandemic,” added Justin.

“The response has been that many have been unable to provide the same level of drop-in care to their homes as they could before COVID-19 and residential aged care ensures their family members are receiving 24/7 security and support within a residential community.

“For us in the sector, it has been a challenge on many fronts, but I can attest to the fact that having loved ones within an aged care community ensures they are remaining connected, entertained and cared for by a team of trained professionals who are dedicated to ensuring residents continue to thrive,” he concluded.

Alino Living is the collaboration of three aged care organisations that commenced an amalgamation last year. Central Coast Community Care Association, Adelene and Vietnam Veterans Keith Payne VC Hostel are now delivering a brighter future for hundreds of residents and team members. The organisation will officially launch in the coming months.