Key things to help you everyday Things to watch

Helping our residents stay connected and fighting loneliness in a village setting

When it comes to mental wellness and wellbeing, connecting and engaging with others is one of the most important things we can do.

As we get older, our social connections change.

We may lose friends and life partners, or be less physically able to attend activities in person.

The result?

Some individuals choose to remove themselves from situations where they engage with others.

There are many reasons someone might do this – it could be as simple not wanting to feel like a burden.

But the problem is it’s not healthy.

Retirement villages are normally great locations to facilitate the kind of social engagement we as individuals need to drive positive health and wellness outcomes.

But what about our residents who have become isolated and less connected?

What can we do, in our roles as village professionals?

It’s an important thing to be mindful of, especially amid the onset of COVID-19 which has increased the risk of older people feeling more isolated and less connected.

Facilitating positive change in your village

This is why we want to draw your attention to Connected AU, recommended by Gerard Mansour, Commissioner for Senior Victorians, in a recent LinkedIn article.

Connected AU has two key offerings, that can be great for residents:

  • The Letterbox Project – handwritten letters are sent from volunteers around the country to people experiencing isolation and loneliness.
  • Virtual Hobby Groups – Providing connection and engagement to people anywhere.

It’s relatively easy to set up, but it can drive serious positive outcomes in your village.

Just think of a resident who could benefit and then check out the Connected AU website here.

The easy of helping your resident will just fall into place.

A little bit of effort goes a long, long way

In our experience, when a resident is feeling lonely it’s the little things that count.

Something as simple as stopping to say hello when you see them in the village can really make their day. We’ve also seen great success with Facebook pages and messenger groups set up to engage residents on the tech-savvy side of things.

Here are a few extra ideas you might want to look into:

  • Be Connected – offers simple guides for older people to learn about technology and online safety. Learn more here
  • Community Visitor Scheme – residents may be eligible to access the CVS who arrange volunteer visits to older people. 
  • Local Government – contact them for information about clubs, activities and community events in your region.
Key things to help you everyday

Mental health and your team – it’s a continuum, not a situation

We all have to be on our guard about mental health.

This month our DCMI webinar series finished with our speaker Samantha Young from Human Psychology, talking about supporting your team in crisis.

Sam tells us a recent survey, prior to the pandemic, found 20% of workers were experiencing a mental health challenge.  However, when their leaders were surveyed they were unaware of this. 

2020 has seen our sector challenged in many very different ways – whether it was the fires of the New Year, the pre-winter floods or the all-encompassing COVID-19 pandemic.

We all have been stretched out of our comfort zones in many cases on many occasions. This includes our teams. But there may be a crisis a team member is dealing with that we have not yet become aware of.

Another great insight Sam shared: “Mental health is a continuum with mental illness at one end and mental wellbeing at the other. Individuals can go back and forth on this continuum depending on the many influences in our life and not only the perceived crisis that we experience as a community.” 

Leadership, can be a lonely, isolating and stressful place. This is particularly true for village professionals who are constantly people facing, on call – some 24/7, sometimes caught in the middle, the first responder to emergency, the problem solver and often the person who has to deal with a large workload for long periods. 

So, there is no surprise that BURNOUT is common amongst village professionals.

Sam shared some great tips for reducing the existence of BURNOUT:

  • Good foundations – Diet, Exercise and Sleep
  • Reframing our thinking patterns to focus on the FACT and not the STORY we might be telling ourselves
  • Scheduling of regular downtime – leave, breaks, think time and social time
  • Reducing habits that may inhibit progress – excessive email and phone checking
  • Identify what indicators present themselves when beginning to feel yourself spiralling
  • Building a tool kit of responses in the event you feel a change in your mental health, such as asking for help, tactical breathing and priority identifying.

Thanks Sam!

Key things to help you everyday

Volunteering – staying busy and finding purpose in challenging time​s

Mental health has been one of the big themes in our conversations with village professionals this year. When you consider the year we’ve had, it’s hardly surprising.

Time and time again village professionals have expressed concerns about the mental health of members of their communities, and this has made us think about our own experiences in villages.

For us, the happiest people in villages were always those with a sense of purpose.

This can come in many forms, be it caring for a pet, managing a communal veggie patch, participating in a club or even helping out a neighbour.

But another route that is often overlooked is volunteering.

Volunteering linked to mental health

In the July 2020 issue of Greater Good Magazine, Elizabeth Hooper identified a link between volunteering and mental health.

“New research suggests that volunteers aren’t just helping the communities they serve. People who volunteer actually experience a boost in their mental health,” she said.

While there are some initiatives that can’t be undertaken during a pandemic, many organisations are offering opportunities to volunteer remotely from home.

And these are perfect for staff or residents who could use a pick-me-up!

Friends For Good offers friendly ear to listen

A great example we’ve recently become aware of is the Friends for Good program.

Friends for Good is a Not For Profit driven by volunteer to help fight loneliness with a FriendLine, which is basically a phone line anyway can call for a chat.

This is a great option for villages – not just for potentially lonely residents, but for staff members who’d like to volunteer their time to help someone in need.

You can learn more about Friends for Good here.

Staying busy, finding purpose

A busy village is a happy village.

In our experience that has proven so very true.

If you have a resident or staff member looking a little lost and lonely our advice would be reach out, discover their interests and suggest they get involved in something they enjoy.

Volunteering isn’t the solution to every problem – but it can be a great way to find joy and a sense of purpose in these challenging times.

Covid-19 Key things to help you everyday

Take a deep breath – Time to focus on team and self-care.

I speak to many village professionals on a weekly basis and in recent weeks I’ve picked up a change in tone from panic to calm, to a sense of weariness.

After months of changed working environments, having to adapt and adapt again and continually stretching both personal resources and finances village teams are becoming weary.  

A conscious understanding of how you and your team are responding to this crisis/pandemic is vital. 

As my great colleague at Human Psychology Samantha Young most recently shared, “We all respond differently to crisis. Some of us switch into ‘action’ mode and become more transactional in how we interact with others. Some of us go quiet and withdraw.”

So how can you be supporting your team and importantly yourselves amidst this ongoing uncertainty?

Samantha offered the following options that focus on the basic human needs of fulfillment, belonging and security.

Make your community a safe place to work

Are your employees concerned about the cleanliness of the environment they are working in?

Make sure you have appropriate reminders and resources to reinforce guidelines around cough/sneeze etiquette (into a tissue or elbow), social distancing reminders, hand washing practices, and staff not coming into work when they feel ill.

Update policies and procedures

Having clear policy and procedures to deal with work in a pandemic situation is vital.

Are you able to accommodate flexible working arrangements? If so what are the parameters around that? Will you be encouraging your team and self to have more regular annual leave?

Do you need to review KPI’s and performance measures? 

What additional policy do you need to encapsulate the emergency management act regulations and restrictions – recording of temperature, tracing records (i.e. physical contact with others), hygiene requirements, laundering of uniforms, etc?

Also, consider what new forms of communication policy needs to be in place? Considering things like media responses and use of electronic messaging ahead of time can save a great deal of stress.


Do what you can to take the pressure off your teams.

Recognise that we are all human and that we will all be more distracted right now.

Set expectations about failure, uncertainty, and interdependence. Ask people to speak up.

Here are some conversation starters:

  • We’ve never faced anything like this before so there are a lot of gaps in what we know.
  • We need to hear from everyone. If you’re worried, please speak up.  

It’s also important to practice active, frequent and honest communication and keep everyone informed about important issues and changes. Try to host gathering/meetings sometimes without an agenda with no order of business but to share feelings or concerns.

Mental health

Revisit how and what you can do to support your teams and own mental health.

Does everyone know how to or need to be encouraged to access the Employee Assistance Program?  Share local mental health service details. 

Normalise the conversation around mental health and well-being in team meetings and offer opportunities for suggestions around how to assist each other during this time.

Be a little more conscious and sensitive of the impact the crisis maybe having on out of work life. Many staff are unsettled or uncertain during this time, so it is important to ensure everyone feels safe, informed, and supported.

Caring during a crisis

In times of crisis, every interaction we have is telling a story about our leadership.

Being vulnerable is one of the most courageous things you can do as a leader. Engagement is going to require concerted effort and attention from leaders to build and retain trust and engender a sense of purpose and worth in their teams.

Samantha shared, “Leading during COVID-19 will require sustained energy in the face of disappointment. Passion to try again and persistence to press through obstacles. Boldness during uncertainty and endurance when it is tempting to quit.

“Belief precedes hope so give people something to believe in. Connect effort and sacrifice to the big picture. We are in for a long and bumpy ride through COVID-19. Now more than ever, we need brave leaders, dealers of hope, who can inspire, engage and genuinely care”.

If you need support don’t hesitate to reach out to the DCM Institute team at