Hand to Heart - Social Connections for Older People

20 October 2017

Do you know an older person who is socially isolated?

Conversations with local people in Melville indicate concerns about vulnerable older people living in isolation who may experience a lower quality of life.

Speaking at the National Press Club, Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt said loneliness was one of the most disturbing trends he sees, especially for those with dementia. He urged all Australians to questions how they would want to be treated.

"We must all ask ourselves: Do I want to be abandoned in my later years? Is this what my elders deserve? Is this how I want to live out my days?" he said.

He called for more love and respect for older people.

A video by Channel 4 News in the UK, shows how crushing a sense of isolation can be for older adults living alone.

What does it feel like to be alone?

Yes, just like smoking, loneliness and social isolation are deadly. And just like smoking in the 1960s, our society is just beginning to understand the perils of loneliness and social isolation today. A 2015 study published in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science shows that lacking social connection is as damaging to our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. The New York Times recently ran a story with the headline “Social Isolation Is Killing Us.”

Do you know someone who has few family and social connections, who may have been recently impacted by the loss of a spouse, or their drivers licence?

Do you know someone who may have been hospitalised for a significant amount of time due to a fall, injury or ill health, or may have been diagnosed with a terminal illness including dementia that impacts their cognitive abilities?

Or do you know an older person from a culturally diverse background living alone?

Any one or more of these factors can cause a well-functioning and independent older person to become isolated and reduce their quality of life.

Hand to Heart – Social Connections for Older People resulted from the consultation with local residents and stakeholders for Age-Friendly Melville Plan 2017 – 2021. The program provides socially isolated older people a link to other groups, services or activities that will help them reconnect with their community and rebuild social connections.

Hand to Heart is a collaborative partnership between the City, City of Belmont, ConnectGroups and Befriend with support from Melville Cares. Volunteers will play a big role in empowering those who have become isolated

When a person is connected to Hand to Heart, a trained volunteer will visit or call the person to find out what their interests and needs are, and support them to link up with groups, services and activities they would like.

Would you like to be a volunteer?

Please contact ConnectGroups at (08) 9364 6909 or email

Full training will be provided to all volunteers.

Who can refer someone to the Hand to Heart program?

  • Family, neighbours or anyone in the community
  • Local businesses (eg: pharmacies, cafes, etc)
  • GPs
  • Neighbourhood Watch Volunteers
  • Meals on Wheels Volunteers
  • Local rangers
  • Community Safety officers
  • Library staff

How do I refer someone to the Hand to Heart Program?

  1. Talk to the person about and ask them if they’d like to be connected to Hand to Heart
  2. Call (08) 9364 6909 or email ConnectGroups at with the contact information of the person you are referring.

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