It's that time of year again when we find ourselves saying things like: 'Hasn't time flown?'; 'Where did the year go?'; and, 'Wasn't it Christmas just yesterday?'
Some say that time passes quickly as we age. Others say time flies when you're busy or having fun.
Whether the year for you has flown by or dragged on, it's undeniable that the festive season is in full swing.
As the end of the year draws near, we may be reminded of traditions and beliefs that were part of our past or continue in our lives today.
These customs, values and experiences form part of our culture -whether you can easily describe your culture or it's a little more vague, we each have a culture that helps define who we are and connect with others in our community.
As we age, experiences such as losing partners and friends, moving from work to retirement, living alone or moving away from family into residential aged care can leave people without social connections, and feelings of loneliness can set in.
A meaningful way to help keep us connected to our community as we navigate these life changes is to maintain our connection to our cultural heritage and practices.
University of Sydney PhD candidate Sally Day explains we can often think about culture as people coming from a specific country or having particular beliefs.
Sally Day says culture is more than language and country; it also encompasses lifestyles, values, experiences, traditions, social norms and beliefs.
At its heart, culture helps us feel connected to others, which can directly and positively impact our mental and emotional well-being.
Take it away, and we're at risk of the debilitating effects of isolation and loneliness, which have been linked to poorer psychological well-being and poorer quality of life.
According to a 2018 study by Swinburne University, social isolation and loneliness can increase the risk of premature death and are as dangerous to your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
Research also shows lonely older people are twice as likely to be admitted to residential aged care, and sadly, up to 40 per cent are never visited by a relative.
People working in the aged care sector are acutely aware of the isolation older Australians can face. As they provide care and support for them every day, they invest their time and energy into making the holidays and other occasions throughout the year extra special for their home care customers, retirement villages, and aged care residents.
People working in the aged care sector are acutely aware of this and the isolation older Australians can face.
As they provide care and support for them every day, they invest their time and energy into making the holidays and other occasions throughout the year extra special for their home care customers, retirement villages, and aged care residents.
Of course, maintaining a connection to cultural practices and heritage is often much more than celebrating the big occasions throughout the year.
Aged care lifestyle workers in residential aged care take the time to understand each person's life story and look for ways to incorporate their values and beliefs into their day-to-day routines respectfully.
This knowledge is critical for aged care lifestyle staff to understand a person's needs and to help create a culturally rich environment.
Examples from IRT aged care centres involve learning about one resident's Spanish heritage and love of soccer.
A football table (also known as foosball or table soccer) was soon purchased, and many good times have been had.
Other examples include accommodating a resident's love for cooking by setting up modified cooking activities and meeting another resident's desire to garden daily by installing raised garden beds and supporting them in planting and tending different crops.
It is incredibly important for older people to be supported in maintaining their connection to cultural traditions, customs and heritage to support their wellbeing.
I agree with Sally Day, who underscores the importance of understanding that just because people can't do all of something they are used to, this doesn't mean they can't do some of it.
Many residential aged care centres are decked out with festive decorations, welcoming choirs singing carols and holding special seasonal parties for residents and their families.
While the joy we share at this time of year is undoubtedly special, it's upholding our personal, everyday traditions that can make the most significant difference to our well-being year-round.
Whether that be pottering in the garden, cooking up something delicious in the kitchen or having a great game of table football.
- Patrick Reid is IRT Group CEO