Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to report on a three year research project exploring the impacts of an intervention seeking to reduce social isolation in older people. Design/methodology/approach – This study used qualitative research methods and a participative approach to facilitate the generation of the research objectives and process. Participant observation and individual/focus group interviews were used to collect data from 100 participants. Findings – Overall the perceived benefits for attendees of attending the friendship clubs fell into three key areas: improved well being, social relations and mental and physical health. Research limitations/implications – A weakness of the participant observation method includes the possibility that the presence of the researcher influenced the findings. The process of gaining different data sets (observation, interviews and focus groups) and checking findings with another researcher and the research participants as the study progressed reduced the likelihood of this bias occurring. This study only considered individuals who attended the clubs. There are many who may not get this opportunity and the issue of how to engage with them through this type of intervention is not addressed. Originality/value – This study adds to the literature to guide practice and service provision as it introduces the finding that even when living with their families, older people can still feel socially isolated. In addition, this study found that club members and volunteers viewed themselves as assets for each other, offering support, advice and friendship – an important finding for service commissioners and providers.
Quality in Ageing and Older Adults – Emerald Publishing
Published: Mar 8, 2013
Keywords: Older people; Social isolation; Social support; Friendship clubs; Elderly people; Mental health