Society is ageing, fast. Today, there are 3.7 million elderly in Australia, which is equivalent to the entire population of Melbourne. In less than 40 years from now, this will have more than doubled, when 8.7 million older Australians will make up 22% of our population.
That this is a major challenge to our economy and health care system is probably not a surprise to anyone, and politicians have been scratching their heads on how to relieve the pressure on the economy. Former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd even stated “unless we make big changes, we will either generate large, unsustainable budget deficits … or else we’ll need to reduce government services”.
But the ageing of our society has more effects than just economic ones. It also poses social challenges. Studies have found that 1 in 3 seniors are socially isolated because of a lack of social interactions. This number is even higher for people that live alone, as studies report elderly don’t leave their home as often as they would like and up to 40% experience loneliness.
Social isolation has severe effects on people’s wellbeing, putting them at risk for depression, anxiety and health implications similar to smoking or being obese. People who are lonely are more likely to need high level health and emergency care, and are also more likely to die prematurely.
In other words: with an ageing society in which elderly are often lonely, the issue of social isolation is pressing. But problems in essence are a chance to do better. So let’s see these challenges as opportunities.
Rapidly developing innovations and new technologies like smart homes and robotics are providing exciting opportunities to make a difference. We can use innovation to create smarter ways of communication, and by combining virtual connections with real-life social connections, we can combate everyday social isolation. Technologies can help people maintain meaningful social connections, staying in touch with their family, friends and local community. At Conpago, we bring people together by changing the way we connect.