“A sense of belonging”
COTA NSW’s second 50+Report for 2021 looks at older people’s connection to their community. Our connection to community can provide a sense of belonging, feelings of trust and safety and foster social cohesion. It has important implications for social capital and cohesiveness, as well as an individual’s risk of social isolation.
COTA NSW conducted a survey of over 7,500 people in September/October 2020, with a particular focus on community participation and connectedness, age-friendly infrastructure and perceptions of safety. We also ran eight online focus groups to explore the themes in greater depth.
Two-thirds of respondents felt positively about their community, and generally felt safe in their neighbourhood. Younger younger groups (50-60) were less positive than older ones, and people receiving Job Seeker were least likely to feel connected to their community. Sports, registered clubs and volunteering were particularly important in maintaining and developing connections.
36% of respondents to the survey lived alone. Social distancing requirements during the pandemic increased isolation for many older people and some respondents experienced feelings of loneliness, anxiety or depression. This can result in poorer health behaviours and outcomes and an increased risk of elder abuse. Surprisingly, loneliness was more prevalent among the younger 50-60 cohort.
The report makes a number of recommendations to the NSW government including committed funding for the Reducing Social Isolation for Seniors Grant Program, supporting the campaign to raise the rate of Job Seeker, providing information and support for people who don’t use the internet or are not confident with it, and establishing a state-wide database of the NSW walking and cycling network.