Hand to Heart - Social Connections for Older People

20 October 2017

Do you know an older person who is socially isolated?

Conversations with local people in Melville indicate concerns about vulnerable older people living in isolation who may experience a lower quality of life.

Speaking at the National Press Club, Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt said loneliness was one of the most disturbing trends he sees, especially for those with dementia. He urged all Australians to questions how they would want to be treated.

"We must all ask ourselves: Do I want to be abandoned in my later years? Is this what my elders deserve? Is this how I want to live out my days?" he said.

He called for more love and respect for older people.

A video by Channel 4 News in the UK, shows how crushing a sense of isolation can be for older adults living alone.

What does it feel like to be alone?

Yes, just like smoking, loneliness and social isolation are deadly. And just like smoking in the 1960s, our society is just beginning to understand the perils of loneliness and social isolation today. A 2015 study published in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science shows that lacking social connection is as damaging to our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. The New York Times recently ran a story with the headline “Social Isolation Is Killing Us.”

Do you know someone who has few family and social connections, who may have been recently impacted by the loss of a spouse, or their drivers licence?

Do you know someone who may have been hospitalised for a significant amount of time due to a fall, injury or ill health, or may have been diagnosed with a terminal illness including dementia that impacts their cognitive abilities?

Or do you know an older person from a culturally diverse background living alone?

Any one or more of these factors can cause a well-functioning and independent older person to become isolated and reduce their quality of life.

About Hand to Heart

Hand to Heart – Social Connections for Older People resulted from the consultation with local residents and stakeholders for Age-Friendly Melville Plan 2017 – 2021. The program provides socially isolated older people a link to other groups, services or activities that will help them reconnect with their community and rebuild social connections.

Hand to Heart is a collaborative partnership between the City, City of Belmont, ConnectGroups and Befriend with support from Melville Cares. Volunteers will play a big role in empowering those who have become isolated

When a person is connected to Hand to Heart, a trained volunteer will visit or call the person to find out what their interests and needs are, and support them to link up with groups, services and activities they would like.

The referral process

  • Timeline item 1


    If you know an older person who may have become isolated from the community, talk to them and let them know about Hand to Heart.

  • Timeline item 2


    If the older person is interested in participating in Hand to Heart,

    1. get their permission to refer them
    2. complete the Referral Record and forward it to Connect Groups.

    You can email the completed Referral Record to or call (08) 9364 6909 with the contact information of the person you are referring.

  • Timeline item 3

    Connect Groups links a trained volunteer with the older person

    The volunteer coordinator at Connect Groups will make an initial call to the older person, clarify details and together determine the best level of engagement

    • Base level of engagement – over the phone to identify their interests, barriers to participation and provide information, contact details and encouragement for the older person to get involved and take steps to connect
    • Secondary level of engagement – arrange for a home visit by a volunteer or a meeting at a local café, library or community centre to talk through their interests and barriers. The volunteer will support the older person to take the steps to connect into activities, groups etc. At this level, it may require a number of visits to build trust and empower the older person to take the step to connect.
  • Timeline item 4

    Social Connection

    An isolated older person is connected into groups and activities of their interests and receives services that they need to have a positive impact on their quality of life.

  • Family, neighbours or anyone in the community
  • Local businesses (eg: pharmacies, cafes, etc)
  • GPs
  • Neighbourhood Watch Volunteers
  • Meals on Wheels Volunteers
  • Local rangers
  • Community Safety officers
  • Library staff
  1. Talk to the person about and ask them if they’d like to be connected to Hand to Heart
  2. Call (08) 9364 6909 or email ConnectGroups at with the contact information of the person you are referring.

Please contact ConnectGroups at (08) 9364 6909 or email

Full training will be provided to all volunteers.

ConnectGroup Volunteers Amanda Muir and Zach Lever

Tell someone about this

Are you an older person looking to get more out of life? Retired and looking to find out more about what’s going on in your neighbourhood that might be of interest to you? Tell us about what interests you.

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