This year’s R U OK? DAY theme of ‘I’m here to hear’ reminds us to reach out to our seniors over a cuppa and ask how they are doing, that is, really doing!
Checking in on our aged family members and neighbours has become a priority with age-specific suicide rates highest among males aged 85* plus.
A unique set of challenges experienced by the elderly beyond depression may include loneliness and lack of support, grief, dependency, chronic pain and illness.
Catholic Healthcare is offering hope through a variety of programs that support our seniors to live meaningful, healthy, and socially connected lives.
The wellness and leisure program, Mind+Move provides a diverse range of in person and online activities and classes that promote lifelong learning and physical activity.
Some of these exciting offerings include classes in art, yoga, Pilates, smart technology, and day trips within a one-two-hour drive from Sydney.
“Exercising particularly with peers and new connections, especially those from a similar age or background can boost morale, confidence and improve strength, balance, and cardiovascular systems too,” said Niall Heaney, Coordinator of Health and Wellness for Northern Sydney.
Remaining socially active and sure-footed is especially important as we age for not only staying in our own homes longer but for getting out and about independently.
A free fall prevention program, Stepping On run from Catholic Healthcare wellness hubs and many other locations within NSW, offers ways to maintain both mobility and sociability.
“Any form of physical activity, not just exercise, can have various physical as well as mental health benefits,” said Niall.
Loneliness and isolation can bring about low mood among the elderly. Mind+Move’s social outings offer ways to connect with others through day trips to beaches, botanic gardens, and historical and cultural sites.
“Social outings in many cases have taught many of our clients to reconnect with likeminded people, visit popular attractions and locations they may not have been to in some time promoting nostalgia and reminiscing,” he said.
With dual qualifications in public and mental health, Niall’s interest in mental health began with Mental Health First Aid training and soon after, community volunteerism.
Today, he works in the McQuoin Park’s Leisure and Wellness hub and sees firsthand the importance of social connectedness for good mental health.
‘Connecting with everyone personally and taking time to listen is the most effective’ [mental health strategy] there is,” he said.
Five tips to help others with their mental health
- Ask R U OK? in comfortable surroundings
- Listen in without judgement and trying to fix the problem
- Encourage social interaction with friends and family
- Check in regularly to let them know you are here for them
- Reach out and support them to attend social activities.
Reach out if you need help
Your mental health is important. Some days are better than others and we all need a helping hand from time to time. If you need someone to talk to, reach out to:
Lifeline 13 11 14
Beyondblue 1300 224 636
*Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Causes of Death (Catalogue No. 3303.0) data, October 2022
*ABS causes of death in Australia 2021