Visiting service set up for the elderly to curb loneliness
Shovelling silt for earthquake-hit residents has helped shape a new enterprise to combat social isolation among the elderly.
Student Volunteer Army founder Sam Johnson and Dr Tyler Brummer launched elderly visiting service WeVisit on Friday, to replicate the social interactions that took place in the aftermath of the Canterbury earthquakes some five years ago.
"The thing we see, both here and overseas, is it's not about the shovelling of the silt or waste.
It's about the social connection ... it doesn't even matter about the silt, what mattered was that a whole lot of young people went and connected with someone of a different generation," Johnson said.
The pair's personal, one-on-one companion service would match elderly residents, who lived alone or in retirement homes, with a younger trained person.
Whether pairs were dead-heading roses, sharing scrapbook ideas or changing light bulbs, the focus was on sharing experiences and keeping families in the loop.
"The thing we're trying to solve is social isolation and social connectedness," Brummer said.
To date, 25 people had been interviewed and 12 trained for positions. They aged from 18 to 35 years-old.
Social isolation was an ongoing issue for society and earlier this year, Age Concern Canterbury told Stuff one in ten elderly New Zealanders could be socially isolated.
"What I love, is that we can fix this problem. It's absolutely fixable. There are enough people everywhere who want to visit older people, and enough people that need to be visited," Johnson said.
The service was also designed to target youth unemployment.
"We need young people in New Zealand to not just work in bars and supermarkets their whole time. Actually they can learn a lot from working with older people," Johnson said.
Johnson said a number of elderly had family who lived overseas, and through the business, family members could all "chip in $10 a week and boom you've got yourself a wee visitor".
"Yes, it's a paid visitor, but that means you get very high quality."
Johnson said it was "effectively a little bit of pocket money for their service that ensures they keep going and it rewards their time".
"The flip side of it ... is that all the people visiting doctors when they don't necessarily need to go, is costing our country an absolute fortune...couple that with our aging demographics."
The pair would eventually look to expand and hoped to have a network of hundreds of people to call upon.
"We want to create a system that we can transfer anywhere in New Zealand."
Brummer acknowledged it was a sad reflection of society that such a service was needed, but "it was also a function of modern society".
- More information is available at www.wevisit.co.nz