Getting connected socially

Positive social connections enhance our wellbeing with a sense of community, belonging and support.

At the other end of the scale, social isolation can lead to loneliness, which can have negative emotional and health effects.

Our 2020 Tenant Satisfaction Survey found 90% of tenants had positive contact with their neighbours in the last 12 months. This is consistent with previous years.

Over half (58%) never or only rarely felt isolated over the past 12 months. However, 31% said they sometimes felt isolated, 6% felt isolated most of the time, and 2% always felt isolated.

About a quarter see their neighbours a lot, and socialise with them, and nearly half stop and chat and do small favours for each other.

Those aged 65 and over report feeling less isolated than those younger than them (64% report feeling rarely or never isolated).

The last Stats NZ General Social Survey, in 2018, found 16.6% of the general population aged 15 and over experienced loneliness at least some of the time in a four-week period. It was 15.4% in Canterbury.

Remember, we’re here to help. If you need to talk to someone, or need help accessing services, contact us on 0800 624 456 and ask to speak to a member of our Well-being Team.

What is social isolation?

Social isolation is where you do not interact socially with others. This can lead to having few, if any, connections with the people around you.

It doesn’t mean you’re physically isolated from other people – you can be socially isolated even if you live with or near heaps of others.

Social isolation can lead to loneliness. It can also make it really hard to get help when you need it most.

There are some tell-tale signs:

  • you actively withdraw from others, as you feel negative emotions about interacting with others
  • others withdraw from you, to avoid being in your company
  • others don’t know how to engage with you – they might not know how to interact with someone like you, with your background or interests
  • life circumstances, such as being in a new home in a new part of town
  • health issues, such as social anxiety, depression or other mental or physical problems that make socialising harder

Tackling social isolation

This is often a two-way street. If you feel isolated, you can try and make changes. If you live near someone who is socially isolated, you can help make changes, too.

The Bay Area Seniors Project Group is one of many in the city tackling social isolation. It has some tips to beat it:

  • Join Christchurch Gets Ready. It’s a communication tool that gives targeted notifications and alerts during emergencies – but it also creates a database of those who need assistance and enables neighbourhood networking, so those with special skill sets can help their local community look after each other during an emergency. It helped heaps of people during the Covid-19 lockdown.
  • Join a club. The CINCH website has a database of hundreds of groups in the city – and it is just the start of what you’ll find online. Others such as Meetup have contacts for clubs that go out for meals and socialise, and ChristchurchNZ has a database of sports clubs and societies.
  • Join the ŌCHT Tenant Advisory Group (we’ve added this to the list!). Among other things, the group organises social activities for tenants. You can learn more here.
  • Go to a church. They’re easily found in the Yellow Pages, and often have listings in your local community newspaper.
  • Contact a visiting service. Age Concern is a great place to start.
  • Find ways to engage with your neighbours. Introduce yourself, say hello, break the ice with a smile every now and then! Offer to keep an eye on their home when they’re away, maybe you like gardening more than they do and can pull the odd weed for them?
  • Swap details with your neighbour, in case of an emergency.
  • Keep an eye out for others who might also feel isolated. They might appreciate a conversation as much as you would.
  • Kind gestures to others also help break the ice. Don’t be afraid to bake for someone else or to invite a neighbour over for a cuppa.

The Bay Area Seniors Project Group has these tips for people who notice someone might be socially isolated:

  • Get to know your neighbours and take an interest in them.
  • Offer to be ready to help with whatever they need, if they need it.
  • Swap your details with them and encourage them to contact you.
  • Inviting them to visit reminds them they are not alone.
  • Inviting them out for a coffee is great – but remember, not everyone has the means to get places. Maybe you can help get them where they need to go?

There are many other resources online to help people tackle isolation.

Remember, we’re here to help. If you need to talk to someone, or need help accessing services, contact us on 0800 624 456 and ask to speak to a member of our Well-being Team.

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Further reading

The Ōtautahi Community Housing Trust
61 Kilmore St,

Hours: 8.30 am-5.00 pm, Monday-Friday.

Postal: PO Box 53, Christchurch 8140

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