Staying connected with others is important at any age but none more so as we enter our later years and perhaps lose the opportunity socialise as frequently as we used to. Maitland Community Care Services (MCCS) has been providing support for the aged, people living with disability and those who care for them, for over 30 years. One of its latest initiatives is the Activity Centre, designed to provide social connections to people over 65 who are living independently in the community and who need help to remain socially active.
The centre provides age-appropriate entertainment, speakers and activities door-to-door transport, and a hot meal. Outings include cabaret-style entertainment and lunch at local venues, Maitland Art Gallery, quizzes, trivia or themed events celebrating special occasions such as St Patrick’s Day, Easter and Christmas.
Mystery tours are also part of the program with trips to the cinema soon to be added to the program. There’s also the chance for members to enjoy supporting charity events such as Operation Christmas Child, The Biggest Morning Tea and Pink Ribbon Day. Peter Rothnie, General Manager, says it’s an important factor in keeping our elderly communities healthy.
“Social interaction can help you stay sharp, healthy, and maybe even ward off dementia. Research shows that social interaction offers older adults many benefits, including improved mental and cognitive function as well as physical and emotional health. Our aim is to provide regular social interaction that contributes to a longer life and protects against illness by boosting the immune system,” he explains.
There’s certainly a great deal of evidence to show some of the benefits of remaining socially active as we age, including; reduced risk for cardiovascular disease, some cancers, osteoporosis, and rheumatoid arthritis as well as a possible reduced risk for Alzheimer's disease, lower blood pressure and a lower risk of mental health issues such as depression.
MCCS can help people become involved in the social support program or they can refer themselves through the Australian Government’s My Aged Care system, which supports all older Australians. Aside from the health benefits of regular social interaction, many clients have an improved quality of life after joining the group.
“One client joined the group after many years living alone, he says he enjoys his ride on the bus to the centre where he has a natter to everyone, the activities keep his mind and body active and make him feel young again.
“He told us that the friends he has made at the centre are the best thing that has happened to him in years. That’s such a rewarding thing for us all at the centre to hear,” concludes Peter.