Watching out for older people in Bunbury

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Meet Amanda Wornum. She’s based in Bunbury as one of our regional outreach advocates. Amanda’s been with Advocare for 15 months and during this time she’s gained great insight into the South West region’s community where she’s been living and working for some years.

As a qualified social worker, having spent 11 years working in the residential aged care sector and 13 years working at Centrelink, it’s not surprising to learn Amanda has a comprehensive knowledge of the challenges facing older people and the local services in place to support them when it’s needed.

We asked Amanda what the particular challenges are for older people who call the South West home, as compared to the Perth metro area.

“It’s a tyranny of distance thing around here. So, whilst we might have aged care and specialist services running there’s a lot fewer support services outside of formal aged care. The South West region is one of those places where, unless you’re actively reaching out to services yourself or someone’s pointing you in the right direction, support is quite hard to find. There’s lots of services out there if you know where to look.”

For older adults who are new to the area and might have been following the sea-change/tree-change path, not having that knowledge of where to start looking makes it harder. There’s less choice around service providers as well.

Amanda W.

How does social isolation impact South West region residents?

We asked Amanda about the degree to which people in the South West understand the impact of social isolation. During a video project she ran last year with older residents talking about social issues, when asked about social isolation, the group of local older people filmed didn’t see it as a major issue. However, ironically Amanda has a different take on it…

“There are socially isolated people here, for sure. I think it’s something that is more geographically obvious so people are more objectively isolated. It’s not something people bring up unless you broach it with them. So, I find that if I’ve broached the subject, people will tell me, that their friends have passed away or this has happened. For older adults, unless they’re already involved in those community groups, like the church, or the senior citizens centre or something like that, so they’re actively engaging themselves, then those social connections aren’t there.

We have a lot of people who move into the area when they retire. So that makes it more difficult because they haven’t built those relationships where you normally would at work or school, you know, all those things that happen. But [social isolation] is not something that’s discussed a lot, but it is something that is picked up on a lot – if that makes sense?” Amanda says.

How to manage as an older person new to the region

Returning to the conversation about new retirees moving into the region, we asked our advocate what she’d recommend in starting the social connection process early – if they want to be part of the local community?

“There’s lots of programs out there. If you’re willing to engage yourself, you owe it to yourself as an older person to find something that is your hobby. Perhaps consider volunteering yourself. I think there is so much value in being a professional volunteer. I met a lovely lady who’s one of our volunteers and visits an aged care home who also has a dog, Sherlock.

She was keen to volunteer as it gave her social contact and because she could still drive and get around to see people who might not have that ability anymore. She said volunteering really improved her quality of life and she’s busy now and she’s happy. The benefits go both ways.”

Amanda is very interested in the idea of social isolation, particularly in local aged care homes. If you’re interested in giving it a go, Advocare has just extended its Aged Care Volunteer Visitors Scheme into the South West region, so if you’re interested give our volunteer team a call to find out more.

Learning is a two-way street

So, what has our South West Outreach Advocate learnt during her time working with older people?

Amanda laughs and says, “How to get thrashed by a 94-year-old at Scrabble!”

“I think learning to slow down is probably the nicest thing I’ve learned. They’ve also taught me the value of a conversation and the value of listening. It’s not always about providing information or providing a service. Sometimes it’s just about holding space for somebody and letting them do that.

Another thing I’ve learned is you can make a judgement call and be completely wrong. And I’ve learned regardless of your age, you’ve still got strengths, and you can still do amazing things. Sometimes it just takes a bit of encouragement!

Out and about…

If you’re keen to meet Amanda in person soon you can find her at the University of the Third Age giving a presentation on the 12th of April and then at the Active Living Expo in Manjimup on the 10.00am-2.00pm at the Wellness Respite Community Centre, 1A Edwards Street, Manjimup.

Call us on 1800 655 566 to find out more about older people’s rights or visit our Community Event listing webpage to find out more about these events.