The Live Well & Stay Connected – Volunteer Community Peer Navigator program wrapped up in March 2022 and proved a success despite the challenges of the pandemic. The aim of the program was:
To empower older people, their families and caregivers to access relevant services and supports and gain confidence in using digital technologies to maintain their mental and social wellbeing and adapt to changing circumstances.
In January 2021, COTA Queensland, Moreton Bay Regional Council and Brisbane North Primary Health Network, together with older people with lived experience, co-designed and trialled a Peer Navigator program at Bribie Island Library from January 2021 — June 2021. From October 2021 – March 2022, the program was extended to Redcliffe, Caboolture and Strathpine libraries including the Caboolture Neighbourhood Centre, and Burnie Brae Chermside.
The program was led and supported by COTA Queensland Wellbeing Project Officer, Karen Wilson, and delivered by a team of 11 volunteers. The program was recently evaluated by Campfire Co-op Ltd. We wish to share a snapshot of the overall learnings from this program.
Sixty-three discussions were had by the Peer Navigators with community members during October 2021 – March 2022. Community members sought access to a variety of information and supports with the most popular requests being digital skills and resources, health and wellbeing, and social and community supports. To a lesser extent, community members requested information and supports around carer support services and information literacy. To the least extent but no less important, community members also wished to learn more about crisis support and helplines, and specialised support services. Peer Navigators also provided key social and/or emotional support, even when community members did not need any specific supports.
Specific examples of information and resources required include:
- Access for technological support including confidence building and use of including QR codes, downloading vaccination certificates, linking Medicare and MyGov; using devices and access to digital resources for those with vision impairment.
- Legal matters and paperwork including Justice of the Peace (JP) services, enduring powers of attorney, and accessing individual advocacy.
- Literacy around awareness of and how to access services including understanding the language and pathways to access services, confusion around eligibility criteria, and navigating the complexities of My Aged Care.
- Mental health challenges as people age, impact of cognitive decline, and mental and physical health of carers (their supports and how to navigate systems), and people at risk of suicidal ideation.
- General care needs, risk of homelessness and seeking supports on behalf of others who have complex health needs including dementia, and navigating changing care needs particularly after a hospital admission.
Peer Navigators were not only active listeners but provided referrals to community members which included a variety of additional services such as hospital social workers, My Aged Care (for information on service providers and assessment), referrals to Carer supports such as Carers Queensland and Carer Gateway (Wellways), lifelong learning through the Library and U3A, physical health and wellbeing through Healthy and Active Moreton, real estate agent, mental health specific supports such as Seniors Enquiry Line, My Mental Health, Your Care Navigator, Public Trustee, and Emergency Relief.
A key strength of the Volunteer Community Peer Navigator program is its potential to help further community members into the future, specifically how this type of program could be built upon or adapted to add value in other spaces such as specific interest communities (e.g., Men’s Sheds, sports and services clubs), general community in higher transit spaces (e.g., cafes, shopping centres), retirement villages, and in health spaces (e.g., hospitals).
We wish to express heartfelt thanks to Karen Wilson, the funders, delivery partners, key stakeholders and the Volunteer Community Peer Navigators.
These activities were supported by funding from Brisbane North PHN through the Australian Government’s PHN program.
- You can read more about the history and success of the Volunteer Community Peer Navigator program here.
- For more resources regarding mental health and wellbeing visit COTA Queensland’s information page.
- For other resources regarding mental health, isolation, and loneliness visit our information page.
- Visit our Social Isolation and Loneliness Hub to contribute your insights into social isolation and loneliness.