Department of Human Services

Act to alleviate people’s loneliness and isolation - principle 10

The world can be a source of friendship, interest, inclusion and interaction, but some people with disability may be vulnerable to feelings of loneliness and isolation. Focusing on inclusion helps the people we support maintain friendships and strong support networks, leading to positive self-esteem and good mental health. Family, carers and support workers can contribute to helping people enjoy being in the world and in company, to whatever degree they want that.

The first step is to find out how much social contact the person would like and can tolerate. Not everyone likes to be the centre of a vibrant social group. Some people may prefer to keep in touch with the world via the nightly news, listening to the radio or browsing social media with lots of 'quiet time' in between. Others will enjoy frequent social outings, games, face-to-face conversation, communal meals and parties.

Practical ways to help

Many community groups welcome new members and can provide a change of scene and activity for someone who wants to try something new. Community groups are often involved in volunteering, charitable activities and the like, and participation in this world can boost the self-esteem of members; for example:

  • Man in wheelchair on boardwalk in forestadvocacy groups
  • Amnesty International (writing letters)
  • animal support agencies (the RSPCA, Animal Welfare League and so on)
  • bushwalking and trail societies
  • community choirs and orchestras
  • cultural and religious groups
  • environment and heritage groups
  • Meals on Wheels (cook and deliver)
  • political parties or activist groups
  • Returned and Services Leagues (RSL)
  • science clubs (astronomy, geology, RiAus)
  • service clubs and speaking groups (Rotary, Lions,  Probus, Toastmasters)
  • sports clubs and sporting activities
  • TAFE SA and WEA (study groups).

Look at SA Community for other groups to try.

Low-key activities

Low-key activities for people who would like to 'get out of the house' but prefer quiet, low-stimulus environments include:

  • visiting libraries, museums and art galleries
  • going to parks, gardens and zoos
  • going to the riverbank, local lakes and wetlands (boardwalks can provide easy access)
  • visiting beaches and jetties. Beach mats enable wheelchair users to get right to the water's edge.
  • having a manicure, pedicure, facial or massage – just having a hand massage can be very relaxing
  • sailing and boating, including canoes and kayaks
  • scuba diving
  • horseback riding
  • bird watching
  • attending places of worship
  • having a coffee in a quiet café
  • picnics and high tea
  • travelling to look-outs and other points of interest, such as monuments, sculptures and scented or interactive gardens
  • attending open days and ‘behind the scenes’ tours.

Make it possible for family and friends to participate; they should be made welcome where the person we are supporting is happy for their involvement.

High-key activities

Elvis impersonatorAnd then there are the folks who want to let loose! Good planning and procedures mean that people with disability can enjoy as participants or spectators:

  • parties, clubbing and dancing
  • theatre shows
  • festivals and fringe festivals
  • movies
  • live music
  • karaoke
  • playing team or individual sports, from bocce to skateboarding to parkour
  • community events such as fun runs, gourmet weekends, street parties, motor shows, expos, and music festivals
  • theme parks, circuses and carnivals
  • car racing, mountain biking, wheelchair racing
  • skydiving and abseiling.

See the South Australian Sports Institute, the Paralympics, Invictus Games, and the Special Olympics.

Assume people are capable without evidence to the contrary

The range of disabilities that people experience is wide and varied. Clearly, some people are not able to participate in some activities but many others can and want to involve themselves. Don't assume anything without first, checking with the person involved (and with family and carers) and second, seeking an evidence-based assessment by qualified clinicians about that person's capability.

Keep an open mind about what is possible and remember that you may have to make a few adjustments to make the activity possible.

Paid work

Working man with Down syndrome at his deskMany people with disability have jobs; others would like to have them but may need assistance to get one.
That assistance should not be assumed to be a placement in an Australian Disability Enterprise, although that will be an option for some people. People with disability work in universities, factories, retail, education, transport and many other diverse occupations. It may be that the person you are supporting needs a modified workplace or processes and could then be involved the workforce.

For employment options, check out:

For workplace and process modifications, check out:

The home as place of involvement

Two women making musicThere are also plenty of opportunities for 'casual' inclusion of people in their homes, whether that is supported accommodation or a private dwelling. Find out from the person if he or she is willing to be involved in making meals together, general chit-chat, discussing sports events and so on.

Leisure activities that can take place in the home, and that can encourage interaction with other people with disability, family, carers and support workers include:

  • playing and making music together as fun, not therapy
  • playing cards, dominoes, chess, checkers and other board games
  • working on jigsaw puzzles
  • hobbies such as knitting, crocheting, tatting, model building, scrapbooking and so on
  • gardening, on whatever scale and either indoors or out
  • games such as charades and trivia-based questions
  • artistic endeavours, such as painting, drawing, sculpting, photography, using model clay and so on.

Online activities

Finally, the online world can be a source of friendship, interest, inclusion and interaction, through:

  • social media
  • gaming
  • digital clubs
  • chat groups and so on.

There is much opportunity for shared experience through such programs as YouTube.

Checklist for principle 10 – alleviating loneliness and isolation

Ask yourself while you read this checklist as Dignity in Care Champions: can my workplace answer 'Yes' to all the questions below?

  1. Do we have policy and procedures around leisure activities for people we support?
  2. Do we encourage involvement in activities, while still respecting people's wish for privacy?
  3. Is it our practice to speak to people we support as people first, clients second, so that we have conversation with them rather than only care-related exchanges?
  4. Are people who want and are able to work or study assisted and empowered to do so?
  5. Do we practice the principle of 'Do with, not for', so that people participate in such activities as meal preparation, shopping, planning of outings and so on?
  6. Do we make use of the many options available today for inclusion – both 'in the world' and online?

If we do all these things and more, we are supporting people to be involved in their communities in all sorts of ways, and helping to alleviate loneliness and isolation.

Providing opportunities for inclusion – it's about recognising and acting to serve the humanity and individuality of the people with and for whom we work.

Email if you would like to become a Dignity in Care champion or need further information.

Page last updated : 13 Feb 2020

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