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Social Connectedness Project Hawkesbury

Improving Social Connections for Older People in the Hawkesbury

Older people without adequate social connections have an increased risk of poorer mental health and well-being which negatively impacts on their physical health and use of health services. In response to these ongoing issues, we have been working in partnership with the Australian College of Mental Health Nurses to pilot a sustainable project designed to improve social connectedness of older people. This project is aimed at reducing isolation and loneliness through the implementation of a compassionate community approach in the Hawkesbury region.

If you would like to find out more about the Improving Social Connections for Older People in the Hawkesbury Project or how you can become involved, contact the Project Officer on 02 4708 8100

Project History

The pilot is being evaluated by the Centre for Health Service Development (CHSD), at the University of Wollongong and it is running over a two-and-a-half-year period (extended to June 2021 due to the impact of COVID-19).

In 2019, the Social Connectedness of Older People in the Hawkesbury project held three Community Workshops in targeted areas of the region. Over one hundred professionals, volunteers and community members participated, working on improving connections for socially isolated older people in the Hawkesbury. A comprehensive report on the outcomes of the workshops has been produced by Synergia.

Following the workshops, a Steering Committee was established, and three working groups were formed to progress some of the key themes identified by the community. The priorities of the working groups include: "Connecting with the Socially Isolated - Identifying the Unidentified", "Service Provider Networking and Community Awareness" and "Improving Transport and Volunteering in the Hawkesbury". These working groups were combined in 2020.

Who is Involved?

Health Connectors

In 2019, the Health Connector program was implemented. People at risk of, or who are already socially isolated can access support from a Health Connector, based in one of seven general practices in the Hawkesbury region.

Health Connectors are trained practice nurses who work one-to-one with patients and carers, developing person-centred social network mapping, planning and goal setting. They act as a bridge between formal health care providers (GPs, aged care services) and informal care networks (families, neighbours, colleagues, social and support groups). They help people to develop their social support networks, especially those people who are isolated, vulnerable and at risk of ‘falling through the cracks’. This is a free service.

Community Connectors

The Social Connectedness project involves upskilling the community to be confident in identifying individuals who may be isolated, to have conversations around social isolation and to direct people to appropriate support.

Community Connectors are members of the general population who know what services are available in the community and who then share that information with people in need. Connectors reference the information contained in the My Health Connector directory for the Hawkesbury and they form a living bridge that helps convey the word of what is available to those who are isolated. There are now over 70 Community Connectors in the Hawkesbury region. Community Connectors can be of any background or profession – neighbours, volunteers, taxi drivers, baristas, retail workers. Anyone who has contact with older people and an interest in helping older people can volunteer.

We have also trained Lead Connectors who are able to deliver the training program on an ongoing basis and who facilitate regular Community Connector catch-ups. 

In partnership with existing groups, services and organisations, we are continuing to develop and support sustainable strategies which strengthen our community for socially isolated people. Community development activities will continue for Seniors Week, Neighbour Day, and other dementia and age friendly projects in 2021.

My Health Connector Website

The My Health Connector service directory was launched 2019, initially mapping Hawkesbury services only. However, interest from the region has grown this directory which is now being populated with services from right across the Nepean Blue Mountains region. Furthermore, organisations can now upload and update their own information using their own Provider Login. If you would like to add your services please register.