Local communities play an important role in the wellbeing of senior Australians. Communities can act as a form of social support for people who experience a distressing life event, such as loss of a spouse.
More generally, living in a safe and secure community can undoubtedly support people’s quality of life as they age.
To understand more about the experiences and perceptions of senior Australians and their communities, this research monograph explored their involvement in community activities, their feelings of safety, their overall satisfaction with living in their community, and whether there are certain population groups who face social isolation and insecurity.
This study used data from the National Seniors Social Survey Wave 2 that was conducted in August 2012, which surveyed 1,993 adults aged 50 years or over. The questionnaire gathered data from participants on their financial, health, and social wellbeing, as well as their demographic and socio-economic backgrounds.
The results indicated that the majority of senior Australians are engaged in their community, with over half feeling safe in their community. The factors that were found to be significant predictors of feeling safe were the number of years lived in the community, high school education, household income, feeling confident that neighbours would help in time of need, health status, gender and residence. A very high proportion of senior Australians reported feeling satisfied with living in their community. The factors that contributed significantly to the prediction of community satisfaction were age, health, feelings of safety and feeling confident that neighbours would help in time of need. Even though a high proportion of seniors indicated that they rarely or never experienced a lack of companionship or loneliness, there were however certain population groups which face some degree of social isolation and insecurity in the population, such as those from lower socioeconomic groups and with poorer health.
Overall, the findings in this report paint a detailed picture of how senior Australians are engaging in their community, their concerns around social isolation and safety, and how these factors relate to their satisfaction with the community. There is scope for further research to investigate how specific interventions in the community can act as a safety net for people who may face social isolation. Many areas of society, including government, non-governmental organisations and citizens themselves, have a role to play in supporting seniors remain actively involved in their community.
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