Community Connections

Community Connections photo
Above from left: Jim (client), Don (volunteer) and Nev (volunteer)

Community Connections supports older men in rural Queensland areas who are at high risk of suicide. The program is coordinated through inter-agency referrals and is managed by Toowoomba Older Men’s Network Inc (TOMNet).

Aims

Community Connections aims to:

  • identify and connect with isolated and lonely older men.
  • establish peer support networks that positively promote the role of men supporting other men in the community
Duration

Commenced in December 2007.

Community Connections photo
Back left, Keith (volunteer), back right, Nev (volunteer) and front, Tom (client)
Location

Based in Toowoomba, Queensland. The program supports men who are more than 50-years-old.

Model

The Community Connections program developed from the experiences of the work of TOMNet. These outcomes identified the need to reach out to lonely and isolated members of the local community in an active manner.

The program has two components:

  1. A home visit team that makes contact with lonely and isolated older men living in a 25km radius of Toowoomba.
  2. A rural outreach team that establishes satellite support groups in neighbouring areas such as Kingaroy, Mitchell and Stanthorpe.
Activities
  • Home visits
  • Locate relevant support groups and financial assistance.
  • Train personnel to facilitate rural support groups.
  • Transportation to TOMNet regular meetings.
  • Day-trips
Evaluation

The program has a set of evaluation tools and uses an external evaluator to report to the Department of Health.

A community-based steering committee helps provide direction for the program. The facilitators of the program find this system extremely helpful.

Lessons learned
  • Client ownership of programs is important and valuable.
  • Many service providers do not have the time to talk and listen to their clients, who may be lonely and isolated.
  • It may take time to change a community’s opinion of a new service/program.
  • Older men value peer support from older men.
  • The transition from work to retirement can be difficult for older men after the ‘honeymoon period’ ends.
  • Referral and cooperation between local service providers is essential.
Project partners

The project works with many local service providers in an inter-agency referral system. These organisations include:

  • Lifeline
  • Carers Queensland
  • The Salvation Army
  • Centacare
  • RSL Care
  • The Bush Connection
  • local police and hospitals.
More information
Visit the TOMnet website or email info@tomnetinc.org