Social Isolation

Keeping in touch with the people we know can have many benefits for our physical health, mental health and wellbeing.  In contrast, feeling isolated can often have a negative impact on our wellbeing and health.

Social isolation and loneliness

Hearing Dogs for Deaf People - making a connection

We often use social isolation and loneliness as if they are the same thing, but they are actually quite different.

Social isolation means being separated from social or familiar contact, community involvement and access to services.

There are organisations that have accredited visiting services:

If you are deaf or you are severely hearing impaired, there are free hearing dogs who may be able to help.

Like guide dogs, hearing dogs can alert owners to fire alarms, text messages, door bells, and oven timers. The dogs are wonderful companions and help improve social interaction and confidence, as well as providing security and independence.

You can get in contact with the Hearing Dogs NZ charity and they will be able to help you.

Did you know…
  • Older people are particularly vulnerable to social isolation or loneliness due to loss of friends and family, health and mobility or income
  • About half of older New Zealanders experience some level of loneliness in our lives - approximately eight to nine percent of us feel lonely all or most of the time
  • Lacking social connections is as damaging to our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day
  • We all have different levels of need for social contact. Some people with limited contact with friends and family may not feel lonely.

A number of situations can lead to feelings of social isolation. These include, but are not limited to:

  • living alone
  • relocation – moving away from a familiar environment, losing touch with people we know
  • loss of income as a result of reduced work capacity or retirement
  • losing a loved one or friends due to death or relocation
  • inability to participate in activities due to access issues, mobility, illness or transport.

Social isolation checklist

The Office for Seniors has released a guide to social isolation.

It includes a checklist to help identify whether we, or someone we know is at risk of becoming socially isolated.

You can view the guide:

Ways to stay socially connected

There are a number of things we can all do to stay better connected to our friends, families and communities.

Try using your SuperGold Card to go to places:

Try getting to know your neighbours - You can get ideas about how to be involved on the neighbourly website:

Try setting up a meal with friends or family – Food is an occasion for sharing, giving and exchanging stories.

Why not invite a friend over for tea? Seniorchef have some easy to make recipes for you to try.

Try to find out what’s happening in your community- Local churches and Maraes, cooking groups, libraries, Citizens Advice Bureaus and local councils can be a good start. These places often have information about social activities in your community. District Health Boards may also provide activities and support.

Places that can help

  • There are many places you can go if you are feeling lonely or recommend for a person who is feeling lonely.
Organisation name

What do they do?

Neighbourhood Support

Neighbourhood Support works closely with the Police and many other organisations in their respective communities to reduce crime, improve safety and prepare to deal with emergencies and natural disasters.

Neighbourhood Support has groups that allow people to share information, ideas and insights.

Age Concern - Accredited Visiting Service

Age Concern runs the Accredited Visiting Service (AVS), a service to reduce levels of social isolation and loneliness. This service is available to people 65 and over.


MenzSheds are spread around the country and provide a space for older men to share their skills and work on practical tasks individually or as a group.

You can find the nearest MenzShed to you on their national website.


For some people who have family or friends living far away, the use of online technology can be a great way to stay in touch and access important information to improve wellbeing.

Your local SeniorNet can help you stay in touch. Learn to use the computer, the internet, skype (video messaging) and email.

Friendship New Zealand Incorporated

Friendship New Zealand Incorporated (FNZI) clubs are designed to

  • keep minds active
  • expand interests and
  • provide fun, interesting activities and fellowship for retired and semi-retired professionals and business people.


The RSA was formed in New Zealand in 1916 by returning Anzacs during World War One to provide support and comfort for service men and women and their families.

Today RSA has 105,000 members throughout New Zealand. People join the RSA because their parents or grandparents did, because they want to connect with the values that RSA fosters, because it’s a great place to socialise.

University of the Third Age

University of the Third Age (U3A) groups are social and cultural gatherings for people in retirement or semi-retirement.

Each U3A is autonomous, promoting healthy ageing by sharing educational, creative, leisure activities organised by their own members. There is no qualification for membership and no degrees or diplomas are awarded; activities are for stimulation in an informal friendly atmosphere.

Ethnic and cultural organisations

Shanti Niwas Charitable Trust

TOA Pacific

Asian Family Services

Chinese New Settlers Services Trust

There are a number of ethnic organisations providing support to older people.

Many are in the Auckland region. These include: Shanti Niwas (Indian), TOA Pacific (Pacific people), Chinese New Settlers Services Trust and the Korean Positive Ageing Society.

Asian Family Services have a phone number you can call for information. Their hotline is available in Cantonese, Mandarin, Vietnamese, Thai, Korean and Japanese.


Communicare is a not-for-profit association serving the elderly, lonely and disabled within the Auckland community. They offer activities, crafts and get togethers.

Napier Connects

Napier Connects is a project that has developed a big group of community-based activities to initially combat social isolation in the Napier Community. Their events range from a social walking group to a “Knowledge Bank” where different generations come together to share practicial skills such as baking, knitting and carpentry.

You can read more about Napier Connects' activities at on the Ministry of Social Development website

Other organisations

Rural Women

St John’s Caring Caller service

Red Cross (Meals on Wheels)

Other organisations working on these issues include Rural Women, the Returned Services Association, St Johns, the Red Cross and various clubs and societies.

Probus South Pacific

Probus is all about Friendship, Fellowship and Fun in retirement. Probus provides you with the opportunity to join together in clubs and to progress healthy minds and active bodies through social interaction and activities with retirees in your community. Probus opens the door to new experiences and friendships, you can hear wonderful guest speakers, stay active by participating in a wide range of activities and explore your community, your country or the world.