Loneliness NZ

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Why loneliness is becoming so widespread in NZ and the organisations doing something about it

Review: Today Donna Fleming writes in the New Zealand Women’s Weekly about loneliness among older people. For socially isolated older people life can sometimes not feel like living, according to Age Concern.  To help improve social connections for pensioners, Age Conern is getting together with other organisations – such as Returned Services Association and the Salvation Army.  They will be seeking corporate support. By improving social connections, you can improve older people’s health and reduce elder abuse.

To improve social connections, it is suggested to:

  1.  Find out about groups and activities in your area (e.g. via local libary or Citizen Advice Bureau) and join up.
  2. Get involved with organisations that provide activities for older adults, such as Fellowship New Zealand (formerly Probus) or University of the Third Age.
  3. Volunteer.
  4. Use meet-up groups on social media.
  5. Get to know you neighbours (see neighbourly.co.nz).
  6. The Office of Seniors website has ideas on how to stay connected.
  7. Be part of a befriending programme (e.g. Age Concern or Salvation Army run programmes).
  8. Move to a retirement village, if that is an option.

Combating loneliness in older people

Review: Today INsite Magazine writes about measures to help combat social isolation.  The article focuses on the views and experiences of Joe Rodrigues, aged 97.  He believes social contact programs are important to reduce social isolation, including befriending (e.g. Age Concern Accredited Visitor Service), daily calls, and singalong programmes.

He believes all seniors have something to offer others: “Every older person has something valuable to share from their lifetime of experience.”

Feature photo: The Ageing Well project continues to investigate social isolation among older New Zealanders. In the meantime, perhaps we should consider preventative measures for combatting loneliness.

The Lonely Millennials: Young Kiwis say they struggle to make friends

Review: Today Brittany Keogh writes in the Sunday Star Times about two socially isolated millennial flatmates, Sacha Aislable and Kate Worboys, who started an Auckland on-line meet-up group to help themselves and other millennials make friends. They look to arrange events that do not cost money, so anyone can join in – for example, meeting at the beach or a park.

They started a Facebook group, called The Lonely Millennials, which enables millennials to turn-off their devices at least once a month and meet face-to-face.  Similar groups have been started in Wellington and Christchurch, with a Wellington 20- to 30-something meetup.com group having more than 4,000  members.

Feature photo: Some of The Lonely Millennials’ Facebook group members met on Saturday. They are from the left Thomas Thew, Alex Vandervoorn, Sacha Aisabie, Kate Worboys and Jessica Segura. David White/Stuff.

New scheme aims to bridge digital divide by bringing elder New Zealanders and young people together

Review: Today Kate Nicol-Williams reports for TVNZ on a new one-year pilot launched today by Digital Seniors that uses younger people to teach elder New Zealanders about how to use technology.

The idea is to alleviate loneliness of the elder New Zealanders by enabling them to use technology to connect with others, such as family and friends.

Feature photo:

The trial scheme in Wairarapa features a dedicated hotline and tech-savvy students. TVNZ.

Watch: Group of students teaching elders how to become tech savvy – ‘I’ll get there one day’

Review: Today TVNZ’s Te Karere reported on a group of female elders (kuia) who were being taught technology, especially on their smart phones, so they could connect with others.

Students from a Taranaki high school turned the tables to teach the kuia about the technology, rather than the kuia sharing their knowledge, skills, and experience with the students.

Feature photo: The teachers have become the students at a Taranaki school.  TVNZ

Jacinda Ardern meets with intergenerational playgroup in Wairarapa, helping alleviate loneliness in the elderly

Review: Today Kate Nicol-Williams reported for TVNZ on Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s visit to an intergenerational playgroup in Masterton.

Founded by mother-of-two Lucy Adlam, the group encourages new parents to visit retirement villages to alleviate the loneliness in older people.

Feature photo: The Prime Minister attended the intergenerational playgroup in Masterton’s Glenwood Masonic Hospital. TVNZ.

A story to dine in on: Kids who sit down for family dinners are healthier and smarter

Review: Today Ewan Sargent writes in the Sunday Star Times about the benefits of family dinners for children; although family dinners are decreasing across New Zealand.  The Dinners Make Families Survey commissioned by My Food Bag and the Sunday Star Times interviewed 521 children and 630 adults.  It found that we are eating together at home less often, primarily due to parents being too busy.  Whilst a generation ago three-quarters of children ate dinner with their parents each night, now only 51% do the same.  “We are letting this simple analogue mealtime face-to-face connection slip out of our lives,” Sargent wrote.  According to University of Auckland associate professors Dr Jennifer Utter and Dr Simon Denny, adolescents who frequently participate in family meals report better family relationsihps, better indicators of emotional wellbeing, and better eating behaviours.

According to Dr Simon Denny, those students who share family meals are healthier because, among other factors, they are less depressed and less likely to commit suicide.  According to professor Anne Fishel of Harvard Medical School, dinners are places where children can share positive experiences with parents – and “these small moments can gain momentum to create stronger connections away from the table.”  According to ToughLove New Zealand trainer Sytske Oldenburger, family dinners “really assists adolescents opening up communication channels.  It’s good for kids who may have shut down.”  Naturally, from a loneliness perspective, better family connection reduces the risk of child and adolescent loneliness.

Feature photo: Charlotte Martin and daughter Ava preparing dinner for the family. David White/Stuff.

Combating elderly loneliness: How ‘Des the Toy Man’ stays socially active

Review: Today Matthew Tso reports for Stuff about how ‘Des the Toy Man’ goes about staying socially active to beat social isolation and loneliness.  Every work day, he sets up shop outside a local kindergarten to sell toys.  It’s not about selling the toys, but social connection after the passing of his wife.

Age Concern chief executive Stephanie Clare explained that older people who are loneliness have a lower quality of life. Age Concern is trying to combat loneliness through its accredited visiting services and raising the profile of the issue. According to Stephanie Clare, New Zealand needs to have places for seniors to connect and systems to keep them active.

Feature photo: Kids and staff at Doris Nicholson Kindergarten sing to Des Redican on his 90th birthday. Matthew Tso/Stuff.

Developing a performance-based Living Standards Dashboard

Loneliness NZ heart logo

Media release: Today Loneliness NZ provided its updated response to the New Zealand Treasury’s request for submissions on the independent report “Treasuring Living Standards Dashboard: Monitoring Intergenerational Wellbeing”, and its proposed Living Standards Dashboard.


The New Zealand Treasury is developing a world-leading framework for prioritising Government policy. Rather than Treasury focusing on a financial measure such as improving GDP per capita, the Treasury is developing the Living Standards Framework, which is based more broadly on improving current and future individual wellbeing. An important element of the Framework is to develop the indicators that make up the Framework’s dashboard. The Treasury commissioned Conal Smith of Kōtātā Insight to prepare a report recommending the indicators that make up the Living Standards Framework. The Treasury has put this report out for consultation.

Our view

We recognise that this is an important consultation for the Treasury, Government, and the wellbeing of all New Zealanders.  We agree with the Chief Economic Adviser, Tim Ng, that the independent report by Conal Smith is “world-class.”

In our view, however, the primary issue with the proposed Living Standards Framework and Dashboard is that it is not performance-based.  What we mean is that it is not focused on a specific measurable outcome.  Instead, it is based around a ‘warm fuzzy’ concept of wellbeing outcomes.  In particular, the Framework is a model of flows and the Dashboard is a categorised list of indicators within the model.  In our experience, this Framework and Dashboard will only achieve about 30% of what is possible if it were performance-based.  Given the likely poorer outcome in its current form, the Framework may in time become more of an academic model or even be disbanded.  That would be a great loss to New Zealand and all New Zealanders.

The good news is that the foundational work to create a performance-based Framework and Dashboard has been completed in parts by Conal Smith’s report, New Zealand Treasury, and Stats NZ.  In this submission, we show how to convert all this work into an integrated performance-based Living Standards Framework and Dashboard.

Our response

To create a performance-based framework, we recommend:

  • An optimisation function that gives clarity to Treasury and Government: To maximise current and future individual wellbeing, as measured by life satisfaction; and to make these subject to international law and conventions, including human rights and New Zealand law, as well as our strongly desired ethics and values.
  • A hierarchical structure of individual wellbeing domains that makes it clear which domains are the primary drivers of this objective function and which are the secondary drivers.
  • The primary domains of individual wellbeing are health, income, social connections, and housing, based on work undertaken by Stats NZ.
  • A hierarchical structure of the capital stocks that makes it clear how the different capital stocks fit together.
  • The framework and dashboard be broad based to capture all the key investments in capital stocks that drive future individual wellbeing – particularly Local Government capital.
  • Each of the labelled capital stocks have two primary capital stocks, i.e. natural capital (environmental capital and ecosystem capital), human capital (knowledge capital and health capital), social capital (social connections capital and trust capital), and produced capital (public capital and private capital).
  • Social connections capital is an intergenerational capital capturing the ease with which society facilitates meaningful social connections. It is made up of community capital, family capital, and friends capital. We identify 30 societal changes that have negative impacted social connections capital over the last forty years.
  • There be one indicator for each domain of wellbeing (we recommend each indicator) and one indicator for each capital stock (we recommend each indicator).
  • There be an efficiency indicator for investments in capital stocks.
The submission, which provides further rationale and the recommended indicators, can be found in Further information below.

Feature photo: Loneliness NZ.

A model for older people’s health, fitness and sociability

Review: Today Dr Beatrice Hale reports on an social exercise model to combat social isolation and loneliness called Steady As You Go (or SAYGO), which was the subject of a recent lecture by Assoc. Professor Linda Robertson. Her research was based on the SAYGO programme organised and managed by Age Concern Otago. The programme has operated for more than ten years and now has more than 50 groups in Dunedin with an average of 15 members each.  Furthermore, it has expanded to other areas in New Zealand.  People are referred to a group by their General Practitioner if they are at risk of falls. The groups are local, regular and led by ‘peers’. They provide long-term social connection for participants.

Dr Hale writes: “SAYGO is clearly an important model for alleviating loneliness in older people, ensuring some connectedness, and strengthening and supporting their wellbeing.” However, current funding of the programme is coming to an end.  The programme was originally funded by ACC and Ministry of Health, until 30th June 2017.  Temporary funding is due to expire on 30th October 2018.

Feature photo: Dr Beatrice Hale reports on Assoc. Professor Linda Robertson’s Otago Polytechnic Professorial Lecture, which discussed a model for initiating and maintaining programmes to encourage social connections for older people.