Age Friendly Illawarra joined with Edmiston Jones in their Wollongong studio to take part in a conversation about human centred design in an ageing world. Nearly 40 people gathered to hear Matiu Bush, Head of innovation at Bolton Clarke, speak about One Good Street. A key driver is research showing that social isolation is a significant factor impacting well-being and this initiative uses social networks in existing neighbourhoods to care for the elderly residents.

Social isolation is now considered a major health issue affecting one in 10 Australians. A UK study indicated that the health impacts of chronic social isolation have the same implications as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Loneliness is linked to increased mental health issues, increased risk of chronic health issues such as diabetes, and even early death. Lonely people are more likely to go to the doctor, creating a healthcare burden akin to obesity. As the Australian population gets older, rates of social isolation are expected to increase.

One Good Street harnesses multiple solutions that range from ‘no-tech’ to ‘high-tech’ to capitalise on existing activities and resources linking an army of volunteers with those in need. As a counter to large institutions weighed down by bureaucracy and preoccupied with insurance, Matiu’s program has a can-do approach and unapologetically ‘revels in the risk’. An ‘aircon club’ connects those with climate-controlled homes to those without is just one example of a loose group that forms and dissipates as the need arises. Casserole clubs and libraries for aged care equipment are other solutions that follow this ethos.

Toby Dawson from IRT foundation and Leanne Taylor representing Warrigal also spoke at the event and gave a local perspective as to how their organisations are taking a human centred approach to caring for elders in the region. Edmiston Jones, IRT And Warrigal are linked as partners in the Age Friendly Illawarra initiative. This alliance will be seeking to implement some of the One Good Street initiatives as we create opportunities for seniors to lead active, engaged lives and contribute positively to Illawarra Shoalhaven communities.