Reducing social isolation in a rural community through diversional therapy

Jane George1, Danielle Durrant2, Joy Aiton3

1 West Coast District Health Board, Grey Hospital, PO Box 387, Greymouth, New Zealand
West Coast District Health Board, Buller Hospital, PO Box 387, Westport, New Zealand
West Coast District Health Board, Grey Hospital, PO Box 387, Greymouth, New Zealand


Reducing social isolation in the community through Diversional Therapy, is part of the wider vision of reducing the number of falls, depression and unnecessary hospital admissions; and improving connection and support within the community.

The Buller Community Diversional Therapy Service was implemented in September 2015, as an initiative to reduce social isolation as part of the future direction of health of older people in Westport, Buller.


Diversional Therapy recognises and facilitates purposeful recreational activities with the individual client choice to increase the physical, intellectual, psychosocial, emotional, cultural, spiritual and sexual wellbeing of all ages in many environments.

Social activities in the community range from weekly bus trips to craft groups, coffee mornings and RDA.  Each person’s activity schedule is based on their own interests, desires and aspirations. There is no single solution to social isolation as everyone has different needs.


Referral rates and goals, as well as transition pathways and sustained engagement in community activities will be presented.


New community groups are now being created and supported successfully with wider support being provided than what was already available or previously not being fully utilised. Ensuring capacity responses to the rapid growth of this service remains paramount.


Participants and clinicians report significant improvements in people’s wellbeing and community engagement. Other rural areas may benefit from a similar service, especially with the growth of community rehabilitation and reduced aged care facilities.


Jane George is Associate Director of Allied Health for the West Coast District Health Board.  She is a registered Social Worker, and has practiced in New Zealand and the United Kingdom.  Her research interests are centred on improving health outcomes for vulnerable populations in rural settings.  A primary goal is the use of strengths based leadership strategies to support staff to use innovation in response to change.  Jane is a Member of the Australasian College of Health Management, the Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers (MANZASW) and Health Informatics New Zealand (HINZ).