An exciting new Shire -wide program ‘Connect and Go Go Go’ was launched yesterday. The program is designed to help our senior citizens who are socially isolated, or at risk of social isolation, connect and engage with others. This is a collaborative program being run by three program partners- the Bellingen Shire Neighbourhood Connection Centre ‘Have A Chat Program’, 2BBB Community Radio and the Bellingen Shire Libraries, funded by the Ageing Division of the NSW Department of Communities and Justice. (Photo from left: Jill Haynes Bellingen Shire Libraries; Alison Pattison Bellingen Shire Council Manager Community Wellbeing; Sue O’Donoghue Bellingen Library).
During the Covid-19 lockdown and beyond, many families have had to turn to alternative forms of communication. Social media and ‘zoom’ chats have offered a way to keep in touch. However, many of our elderly residents may not have access to the internet or appropriate devices. Social isolation has been real and the continued impending risk of further Covid cases means that many in the community continue to be socially isolated.
The three Bellingen Shire libraries have purchased six I-Pads fitted with Sim cards that will be available on loan to seniors who are struggling with social isolation. E-Resources (books, magazines) will be available to download, with audio books and the opportunity to increase the font size, for those with visual impairment. For those seniors without internet access, material will be downloaded to the device by the library staff and to keep things fresh, new material will be available each month.
I-Pad training will be provided to recipients, plus a simple users-guide manual. The library staff will also connect with recipients once weekly by phone, providing any further advice or training. In this way, the socially isolated with internet access can stay connected to family, friends and entertainment, while those without can access interesting up-to-date material. For more information contact Jill Haynes at Bellingen Shire Libraries: [email protected]
The Have A Chat program will also be an integral part of this new program. Registered Nurse Krista Nolan has co-ordinated the ‘Have A Chat Program’ under the Neighbourhood Care Network banner during the Covid-19 Pandemic. Krista is a Bellingen local with many years of experience in the aged care sector. “Our elderly need to feel socially connected to maintain good health,” says Krista. The ‘Have A Chat Program’ has meant that during the pandemic crisis our most vulnerable, aged, unwell, lonely or isolated could be connected to someone who cares. This was achieved over the phone or even a cuppa at a safe distance, ensuring that those who needed company, got company.
‘Have A Chat Program’ will now be continued through until the end of 2020 as part of Connect and Go Go Go. Initial calls to the hotline are fielded by Krista who is able to troubleshoot, discerning the needs of the caller. She will then connect the caller with the appropriate services or with one of her team of ‘Chatters’, who are happy to provide that crucial social interaction. The hotline number: 6655 1121. Please contact Krista Nolan for more information: [email protected]
2BBB Community Radio’s involvement in Connect and Go Go Go will involve airing their brand new program ‘Voices of the Shire’, highlighting voices of community seniors from across the Shire. We will all be able to hear the stories from our senior community members, their lives, history and how the recent Pandemic lockdown has affected them. There are also plans to create podcasts of these interviews, which will be available from the Bellingen Shire Libraries. Head of programming at 2BBB radio Kye Ruigrok is keen to talk with seniors from across the Shire. He can be contacted on [email protected]
These three integrated components will have crossovers to provide the best outcomes for the community. As the NSW Senior Australian of the Year 2019 and OzGREEN co-founder Sue Lennox remarked “Intergenerational connections are lacking in our western culture. Events of the past six months have shown us that we need to adapt to a new normal and in this, we need to find better ways of connecting with our elders.” This program will certainly help to ensure that the elderly in the Bellingen Shire aren’t forgotten.