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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2019 Week 11 Hansard (Thursday, 26 September 2019) . . Page.. 3978 ..


second one examined 70 studies and concluded that social isolation, loneliness or living alone posed risks for premature death that were as big as or bigger than obesity, smoking—and that is smoking fewer than 15 cigarettes a day—or air pollution. She concluded:

… we are facing a ‘loneliness epidemic.’ The challenge we face now is what can be done about it.

Interestingly, looking at UK data, 16 to 24-year-olds report being more lonely than older age groups. Apart from teenage angst, it is possibly due to technology like texting and social media, which have made it easier to avoid forming real face-to-face relationships. They do have their place but they are not a substitute for real friendships and meaningful relationships.

The other group that is lonely is over 75-year-olds, where the rate of loneliness increases. Your friends may have died or you may have become isolated, and not capable of driving or phoning. Sometimes people have children that they can rely on, but often they do not, and their friends may be in similar states.

I have heard some very concerning stories where older people have been befriended by a carer who eventually moves into their house and gains full access to their finances. The older person may maintain the exploitative relationship with them because in the end it is much more important to have a friend rather than have control over their own life and finances. I have heard similar stories where an older person’s family has taken over financial control, the older person has reached out to services for assistance, but in the end they decide that the risk of alienation from their family is too great to take effective action against financial exploitation.

These stories are really sad, and really highlight how important it is to have social connection. Humans are social animals. Older people, like all of us, just want to be able to talk to someone and feel that they matter to someone. This matters more as one nears the end of one’s life, and for some people it becomes more important than anything else. Yet older people, and in particular older women, are often not respected by our community.

That is one of the reasons—the isolation of people—that I have been speaking so much about the need for local bus services and transport that are accessible to all of us, including those of us who cannot easily walk to a rapid. As we get older, we are more likely to become housebound and socially isolated. We need to have a transport system that can cater for all of us, not just the active members of the community who can walk and ride to their local bus stop, or people who are capable of driving. You have to remember that not all of us can drive, even if we want to, and even disregarding any environmental impacts. It is not an option for everybody, and we should not have a transport system which relies on people being capable of driving or walking a kilometre or more.

Loneliness is one reason that the ACT Greens worked to include home share for older Canberrans in our parliamentary agreement. We have not seen much action on this as yet. Home-share arrangements are brokered by third parties to bring together typically


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