This year’s current lockdown in NSW is difficult for everybody. The tighter restrictions have cut off our ties to our friends and families in a way that did not occur during the 2020 lockdown.
As a result, we are seeing an increase in mental health problems associated with loneliness and depression. Many reports have focused on the negative mental health impact on young people, especially as younger people are not accustomed to such a severe interruption of their social activities.
However, it is imperative that we also remember that our current lockdown is particularly severe on our senior and disabled community. Even without lockdown, seniors are more likely to experience loneliness and depression due to social isolation. As family grows older and moves away, retirement and lack of regular work activity, and the loss of social groups cause many seniors to feel alone and lose access to the social supports they had in the past. Further, prolonged loneliness and isolation can also lead to serious mental and physical welfare issues such as increased loss of cognitive functions and dementia.
Organisations such as ours are now focusing on ways to harness modern technology to assist our seniors, people with a disability and long-term unemployed during this current lockdown. More often than not, seniors and people with a disability find it especially hard to understand how to use their phones and computers to keep themselves entertained and connected with their community. Early last year, many of our service users reported they struggled to work out QR codes which are required to enter public venues and others have found it difficult to download applications.
Last year, we published the cookbook Share a Meal, Share a Conversation. This cookbook provided seniors and people with a disability with easy-to-follow instructions on how to video call friends and loved ones. The simple recipes served as conversation starters and activities that could be followed during a video call. After returning from our first lockdown, we supplemented this work by providing basic digital literacy classes for our senior and disabled users. We even hosted weekly remote learning ESL classes via Zoom. This helped our service users to grow accustomed to online platforms and to explore the opportunities that their smartphones or computers provided.
As we continue to live under this current lockdown, Beehive Industries is working hard to ensure that our service users continue to feel active and connected even while alone at home. While we already provide weekly food aid packages and do regular welfare checks, we supplement these with activity packs and craft kits, which can be done in groups via Zoom. In addition, we are also developing a second cookbook to provide our users with new ideas.
Loneliness affects all of us, and connection to our communities is becoming more important than ever. For our seniors and people with a disability, this connection is often hard to maintain. With the right motivation, modern technology provides us with ways to make it easier to breach generational lines and create new connections in society. We should all take the time to connect with our senior and disabled loved ones. This will the give us the opportunity to connect, have a good chat and maybe learn new things while safe at home.