The Standard

Serving up connection: Glen 20 and Meals on Wheels partner in mission to fight loneliness

Much-loved community organisation Meals on Wheels provides a valuable connection between its volunteers and its elderly customers. Picture supplied.

This is branded content for Glen 20.

For many in our community, a knock on the door heralding the arrival of Meals on Wheels volunteers became an even sweeter sound during the pandemic.

Not only did it signal the delivery of nutritious, delicious meals for some of our most vulnerable senior citizens. In the midst of the restrictions of the crisis, it was also a chance for those living alone to connect with another person face-to-face, even if it was through a screen door or from the front verandah.

For Meals on Wheels customer Faye Beaumont, who's lived alone in her home for the past seven years since her husband died, the Meals on Wheels "vollies" continue to be a source of joy.

"Even through the pandemic, the Meals on Wheels vollies found a way to deliver my meals and say hello," said Mrs Beaumont. "It truly kept my spirits up.

"I would be lonely if not for the connection with the vollies that I've made friends with over the past decade. They bring me moments of joy and peace of mind that I'm well and part of something bigger - the community."

Today, even as restrictions have eased, borders opened and the comfort of social connection restored for most of us, for many vulnerable Australians the isolation has continued, fueling the country's epidemic of loneliness.

While the ability of Meals on Wheels to address social isolation through its invaluable face-to-face connections has seen it develop into an important and much-loved organisation, it's now calling on the wider community to join its mission to fight the ever-growing problem.

It's partnered with hygiene brand Glen 20 in the 'Can Loneliness and Create Connection' initiative aimed at bringing people together, that has built on two years of work together throughout the pandemic.

Meals on Wheels volunteers bring "moments of joy" for customer Faye Beaumont. Picture supplied.

Research commissioned by Glen 20, supported by Meals on Wheels, aimed at understanding the impacts of social isolation and how it can be prevented, shone a light on the issue and revealed many vulnerable Australians were still struggling to connect with their communities and loved ones.

Only 39 per cent of those surveyed feel strongly connected with their community on a daily basis, while more than half (57 per cent) said they do not connect to their community face-to-face on a regular basis.

While 90 per cent of older Australians believe social connection is important to their wellbeing, 1-in-3 have been interacting less since the start of the pandemic.

And while 75 per cent of people believe older Australians are most at risk of loneliness due to a lack of social connections, 25 per cent say they only check in on vulnerable members of their community less than a few times a year.

With the fear of COVID still strong for some people, more than 70 per cent of those surveyed said they feel more confident to connect with people in a hygienic home environment rather than venturing out.

In response to the hygiene concerns, Glen 20 and Woolworths are donating 100,000 cans of Glen 20 Disinfectant Spray worth $900,000 RRP to Meals on Wheels customers and volunteers to help them become more comfortable making connections in a hygienic environment.

Meals on Wheels Australia president Sharyn Broer said that over the last two years many Australians had experienced loneliness and isolation on unprecedented levels, with some in the community continuing to do so.

And she urged all Australians to join the "Can Loneliness and Create Connection" initiative by reaching out to their loved ones and others.

"Our incredibly dedicated team has been on the ground in the community since the pandemic began and have seen first hand how important it is to stay connected to the people around you, whether it's a phone call, a friendly wave from the street, or a hot meal delivered to your doorstep with a smile," she said.

"I'm confident this campaign will resonate with communities across the country - both those who need a helping hand and those who can give it."

Something the pandemic brought home to more people was the damaging effect social isolation can have on wellbeing.

Media personality and a spokesperson for the campaign Fifi Box said she understands even more the importance of connection, after experiencing the impact of the pandemic on her family, particularly her mum Pearl.

"We had a tough few years thanks to the pandemic, I was worried about mum and her being able to socialise with others while there were restrictions in place," she said.

"For me, being based in Melbourne during the pandemic was really challenging - I missed my friends, my community and my family. There were many days when I was lonely and having gone through that I understand how important simple face-to-face interaction is.

"It's so important to improving our mood and bettering health outcomes. I can't wait to see more Aussies can loneliness and create moments of connection with their communities."

Ready to join the fight? Here are some tips from Meals on Wheels to help 'Can Loneliness and Create Connection' in your community.

  • Check in on your loved ones, a neighbour, or any member of your community, offering to drop in and say hello. Even a wave from the street or a distanced moment outside can make a difference.
  • Lend a hand. Often simple tasks can be daunting for vulnerable communities, such as visiting a supermarket, or using public transport. Offer to pick up their groceries or give them a ride.
  • Join your local Meals on Wheels as a volunteer. It's a win-win situation with studies showing volunteering can improve your wellbeing as well as the people you're helping.

The 'Can Loneliness, Create Connection' 2022 was a survey of 1045 + Australians aged 18 years old and above. It was commissioned by Glen 20 and executed by Researchify via an online survey between 29 July and 2022 and 12 August 2022. 

This is branded content for Glen 20.