Elders across Australia suffer from chronic loneliness and the highest rate of suicide for any age group. How do we create new connections and friendships for an often marginalised group?
The #OLDMATE program launched with a call for young Australians to pledge to find and spend time with their 'old mate', with a curated selection of activities, opportunities, and ways to connect.
#OLDMATE was awarded a Good Design award in 2020, and has helped thousands of Australians to forge new cross-generational friendships. During COVID-19, spur: worked with Ipsos to develop a landmark study in the effects of cross-generational friendships and loneliness.
Suicide amongst older people
Over 2,300 Australian men suicide each year in Australia - and this number is rising. Most resources and focus towards men’s mental health is aimed at younger men between the ages of the 14-44, which is understandable: Suicide is, proportionately, the leading cause of death amongst men in this age bracket. Suicide proportionately accounts for just 0.5% of deaths in men aged over 70 - which seems relatively small. However, these statistics, are misleading. In "real numbers", the rate of suicide increases exponentially as men reach old age - particularly amongst men aged 85+.
Although suicide statistics are particularly stark amongst men, it is important to note that rates of poor mental health are roughly even between sexes.
The driving factors behind poor mental health and suicide in older people are wide ranging and often complex. However, core factors include living with illness, loss of connections, financial limitations, loss of independence, and stoicism.
Reduce social isolation
#OLDMATE is an initiative surprisingly simple in its approach: Rally 100,000 people to spend time with older people in the community. Spending just one hour per month with an "Old Mate" can improve their self-esteem, skills, and well being whilst reducing isolation and other contributing factors that lead to poor mental health and suicide.
Once participants take the pledge, the #OLDMATE website has scores of recommended activities for them to do with their Old Mate. These activities are specifically designed to reduce the contributing factors to poor mental health such as social isolation or physical malaise.
Each month, participants are also updated with an #OLDMATE newsletter which includes context-specific activity recommendations and special offers from supporting business.
#OLDMATE has recently been licenced in Queensland by Anglicare Southern Queensland to help connect people with Old Mates within their aged care network:
Specific action curated
Using spur:’s 10+ years experience in the Australian mental health space and utilising root cause mapping frameworks, #OLDMATE was designed to address social isolation. We aimed to create a platform and campaign that made volunteering with old mates effortless, inspiring, and uplifting - never a chore, or intimidating. Everything within the campaign was designed around this mentality and focus.
Thousands of Australians (and even those overseas) have already taken the pledge, and we're well on our way to achieving our goal of generating 1,000,000 volunteer hours to help improve the wellness of older people in the community.
Visit the #OLDMATE website to find out more, or to take the pledge.