September 2018 marked the 18th anniversary of our Selwyn Centres parish partnership charitable outreach programme. The initiative, providing neighbourhood drop-in centres for the over 65s, launched in Papakura to combat the problems of loneliness and social isolation experienced by older people living in the community.
Since then, the number of Selwyn Centres has grown to 40, offering friendship, fun, support and advocacy to seniors in localities across Greater Auckland, Northland, the Waikato and Christchurch. They welcome people of all faiths, backgrounds, cultures and ethnicities.
The Centres offer a timetable of shared activities, gentle exercise, morning tea and occasional excursions all at nominal cost, with transport available, if required. Each session is facilitated by a trained coordinator and a team of volunteers. Loneliness can be a serious health issue for older people. Research confirms that remaining socially connected has a positive effect on general health and can also bring psychological benefits, such as delaying the onset of dementia. Indeed, the importance of social connections for wellbeing has led researchers to call on health professionals to take loneliness as seriously as other health risks.
For older people who may be without close family or friends, or who have limited opportunity for social engagement, Selwyn Centres provide a chance to meet with others of the same age group within their local area each week. They provide companionship and shared interests in a supportive environment which, in turn, contributes to older people staying active, healthy and independent in their own homes. In 2015, new Centres opened in Mangere and the North New Brighton area of Christchurch, and Hamilton in 2016.