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Aussies Urged To Spend One Hour A Week With Elderly Person

You may remember earlier this year, a 75-year-old widower from South Australia posted an ad on Gumtree.

"My name is Ray Johnstone Australian I'm a widowed pensioner who is looking for a fishing mate my previous fishing mate is now deceased," Ray wrote.

Well, the country melted - and while Ray found a fishing buddy, his plea shone the light on an issue that many of rarely stop to actually think about.

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The story touched CEO of mental health charity, Spur Projects, and he decided to do something about it, given that the mental health and loneliness of older Aussies is a big issue that generally remains unaddressed.

“Men aged 80+ suicide the most out of any age group in Australia,” Lee told Hack, “And it’s a statistic that’s not really spoken about at all.”

While it’s not news that suicide is the biggest killer of young men in Australia, it was surprising that the rate of suicide deaths per 100,000 is highest in men aged over 80.

Loneliness is at the heart of this.

So, ‘Old Mate’ is a campaign that encourages 100,000 Australians to take the pledge online to spend one hour a week with an old mate in their life - and it doesn’t even need to be someone you know.

Take my story for example.

I met Dorothy one day when I was at the x-ray clinic. 80-something-year-old Dorothy had spent the morning walking up the steep hills of the inner west to reach the clinic, only to be told she couldn’t be seen without a doctor’s referral.

She looked so downtrodden, and was obviously in pain. My heart broke.

‘Hey there!’ I said. I actually don’t have to be at work for a few hours and I’m all done, I’m happy to take you to the doctor’s.’

She smiled the biggest smile and said, ‘Oh thank you so much darling, I’m Dorothy, let’s go.’

I drove her to the doctor, and waited with her until she could be seen. ‘Are you with her?’ the receptionist asked.

‘She’s with me!’ Dorothy replied.

After her visit, the doctor said she needed to go to the hospital, her injury was worse that she first thought, so off we went. It was there I called her daughter, who took over.

During that car ride, we talked a bit about her children and her life growing up in Sydney. She was married to a soldier, who had died in the war. She adopted a baby when she couldn’t fall pregnant and then to her surprise, fell pregnant naturally.

‘It was easier to adopt in those days, the doctor just handed me a baby and said, ‘Do you like this one?’ I knew she was my baby!’ Dorothy explained.

I was enamoured with her stories.

Since that day, two years ago. I check in regularly with Dorothy and take her to her favourite fish and chip shop once every two-three weeks.

But it’s not enough, ‘I used to come three times a week when I was young, it’s my favourite,’ she always tells me.

Dorothy knows she can always call me if she needs anything, and between myself and her two children, she has a good support network and something to look forward to, always. Every elderly person deserves that same feeling.

Please, make a pledge today.

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