Research has shown that increasing social connections can improve the quality of life for people over 65 who have chronic pain. That finding was the inspiration for a recent Yarra Ranges pilot project supported by COTA Victoria. Opioid Use and Pain: Addressing Loneliness in Mature Adults (OP-ALMA) aimed to help older adults cut down on their use of pain medication by increasing their social connections.
OP-ALMA helped older people develop an individualised plan to increase their connections with others, exploring the activities they were already involved in and new opportunities in other areas of interest.
With the pandemic presenting obvious challenges to ‘social prescribing’, OP-ALMA had to adapt. Older people were loaned a tablet and helped to connect online, with regular one-on-one phone calls from the OP-ALMA team to support online activities.
At the end of the project, most participants reported that they were happy with the intervention.
- Most (87.5%) reported lower pain
- Around 4 in 10 (38%) said their loneliness had decreased
- Nearly half (44%) reported less severe depression.
Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough data to show whether participants had reduced their use of pain medication.
Although the project has finished, the resources it developed are still being used to help older people in the Yarra Ranges manage chronic pain. These resources include:
- fact sheets on loneliness, sleep hygiene, relaxation and managing flare-ups
- postcards with suggestions for increasing social connection
- a resource booklet for the Yarra Ranges community.