Isolated migrants to engage and connect to their community

21 May 2014

A pilot program run by the Australian Nursing Home Foundation (ANHF) is helping improve the mental health of socially-isolated elderly people.

Aptly named the Positive Journey project, it is aimed at the elderly Chinese community housing residents in Campsie who live alone and lack family support. The underlying message of the project is that positive thinking and volunteering can enhance the livelihoods of its participants and encourages them to get involved in the community as a way to combat social isolation.

Within the multi-stage program, participants attend information sessions on positive ageing conducted by health specialists and guest experts on mental health. The next stage includes them participating in planned activities like water painting, dancing, craft work, Chinese calligraphy,  Tai Chi and opera singing. At the end of the program, participants are encouraged to take part in a theme-based Gala Day where they can showcase the highlights of their activities.

“This program will enhance participants’ mental resilience and create an opportunity to engage, connect and build friendships,” said Xuyen Tang, Director of Community Services at the Australian Nursing Home Foundation.

“Initial feedback indicated that the participants have achieved a greater sense of belonging and increased feelings of well-being after they attend the information sessions. We want participants to have more life satisfaction and feel more confident in their community – some of these participants are frail, speak limited English and lack understanding of available Australian support services.”

“Some of our participants are relatively new migrants sponsored by their children but are unable to live within the same household; others arrived 50 years ago alone to work and have since lost contact with family members back home – they don’t get much opportunity to interact with others,” said Tang.

Positive Journey, sponsored by Canterbury League Club through a $3,000 donation, has 38 elderly Chinese housing residents signed up so far and participants were recruited through word of mouth, marketing posters and interagency communications.

“We should be encouraging our seniors to stay active and participate in community engagement programs. This will help keep their minds sharp and reinforces there is still plenty of activities on offer for them to enjoy after retirement,” said Dr George Peponis OAM, Chairman of the Canterbury League Club.