Social Visitor founder Mia Lacy.
Social Visitor founder Mia Lacy. Lee Tom

Reconnecting with our elders

WITH our modern society drawing us away from the family home in search of education, a career or even simply travel, visiting an elderly parent or grandparent can sometimes become less of a priority.

Although Australia hasn't gone as far as China with its new law stating children have to visit their parents, Mia Lacy has found an answer to removing this isolation through her service Social Visitor.

Mia began Social Visitor after visiting her grandmother in an aged care facility and realising that the other residents were often not receiving any visitors.

Mia said the idea came from a desire to find a solution to this isolation, but took her several years of research to find the right answer.

"In a 15-year survey, the number of respondents who said they had no close confidante trebled and with our aging population increasingly living interstate, away from family in care facilities, a friendly visitor fills an important role," she said.

"Social Visitor is based on simple need and revolves around a social visit, usually to a care facility resident lasting up to one hour, but we also offer Skype video calls and a popular addition, a memoir-writing service.

"Our service is not intended to replace the work done by volunteers and lifestyle staff at aged care facilities. It exists because we're meeting a need in a new way and our clients appreciate the feedback and connection with their loved ones that Social Visitor offers."

After considerable success in her home town of Cairns, Mia is now extending the service to accommodate the new Sunshine Coast Social Visitor base through the support of Noosa resident Wendy Campbell who currently operates a psychology practice.

"As someone who is very passionate about her work and has a special interest in working with families, Wendy is ideal to help us spread the word and advocate for elder loneliness and social isolation," Ms Lacy said.

"The demographic of the Sunshine Coast also means it is the right location to implement our first territory management model which is a new direction for us.

"It is the perfect time to enter into this kind of growth as we currently have a network of clients and customers around Australia. In fact we're even bi-coastal with a client in Western Australia who uses the service to visit his mum on the east coast."

As well as operating Social Visitor, Mia continues to remain a strong advocate for lonely seniors, regularly speaking on the subject and encouraging everyone to practise her three social steps.

  1. Ring a relative: call a distant relative and have a chat because you will make their day.
  2. Cop a cuppa: take someone out for a coffee or, if going out is difficult, take them a jar of coffee and a packet of biscuits and have a cuppa with them.
  3. Speak to someone: we see people every day who we know are lonely, so start a conversation and give someone the most valuable thing of all, your attention.

All Social Visitor staff have a current police check and are bound by its code of ethics.

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