Connection brings a sense of wellbeing full of positive implications: fulfilment, belonging, happiness, even oneness with the world around us… But what happens when life circumstances disconnect us?
“We all need connection to other humans,” SockHwee says gently.
When humans become disconnected from others, their sense of wellbeing often fades and their overall health is more likely to decline. The Covid-19 pandemic, combined with the ever-increasing globalisation and digitalization, has broken some of the bonds of human connection for many.
SockHwee has been an Age Concern volunteer for two years. She began volunteering in early 2020 when whispers of the pandemic first reached New Zealand. SockHwee, originally from Singapore, was matched with a client who spoke hardly any English. Government announcements of lockdowns and social distancing rules failed to reach this client. Through limited knowledge of Cantonese, SockHwee was able to help and connect with the client through a difficult time. SockHwee’s husband speaks more Cantonese, and he befriended the isolated client as well.
SockHwee also helps with Age Concern’s Connect Programme, a community outreach initiative which brings coffee groups and connection to seniors in Council Housing settings. “I’ve made many new friends there. It’s such a privilege hearing older people’s stories, what has shaped them. Their different cultural backgrounds and experiences form part of history.”
A couple of months ago, Age Concern matched SockHwee to another client, but this time as a Phone Friend. For some isolated older people, this service is more suitable. They may have housing issues, anxiety problems, health restrictions or a myriad of other reasons which would make a visitor coming to their house unsuitable. The Phone Friend Service is similar to the Visitor Service: a volunteer is matched with an older isolated client, and they connect on a weekly basis.
At first, Vesna* and SockHwee spoke of each other’s lives and gained a feel for each other. They built a rapport, and the weekly conversations became more relaxed and chatty. Through the long conversations, Vesna slowly regained a small connection with the world.
SockHwee hopes the chats not only bring Vesna a sense of comfort, but also something to look forward to. SockHwee enjoys learning about Vesna’s past and her fascinating work experience. They share recipes and household tips. Their friendship is growing, and SockHwee looks forward to calling Vesna each week.
“The phone cannot replace face-to-face contact,” SockHwee says. “The facial expressions and body language are missing. I have to listen more carefully with the phone. I would welcome meeting Vesna and visiting with her for a couple of hours each week, but I respect that the time isn’t right for that.”
SockHwee is also a Health Psychology Masters’ student at Victoria University. Her thesis focuses of migration and ageing. She’s well placed to understand the importance of connection for our health, and she’s chosen to help people whenever she can. SockHwee seems to be particularly gifted at making beneficial connections with people.
“I encourage others to use the Phone Friend Service,” SockHwee says. “It could be for a short period even. If you feel your life needs connectivity, this is worth a try. Age Concern’s services are helping many people by linking them.”
If you or someone you know would benefit from the Phone Friend or Visitor Service, please contact Age Concern Wellington Region for more information.
Phone: 04 499 6648
* name has been changed for privacy reasons