Reducing social isolation and promoting well being in older people
HEMINGWAY Ann, JACK Eleanor
A UK charity established a network of 70 friendship clubs in the south of England, facilitated by volunteers, with the aim of promoting well-being for older people. The charity provides venues and transport for participants to meet and enjoy activities locally every week for 2 hours. This article reports on a 3 year research project exploring the impacts of the intervention, using qualitative research methods and including participant observation and individual and focus group interviews. The study was based on 10 of the friendship clubs and collected information from 82 members and 18 volunteers. The article describes the intervention and the study methodology. It presents the results, with illustrative quotations from participants, covering views on the risk of becoming isolated, feeling isolated, and friendship and support. It identifies additional factors that can predispose an individual to become socially isolated, including environment and safety fears, fear of falling, and loss of confidence, and notes that even when living with their families older people can still feel socially isolated. It reports that club members and volunteers viewed themselves as assets for each other, offering support, advice and friendship, and that, overall, the perceived benefits for attendees of attending the friendship clubs fell into 3 key areas: improved well-being, social relations, and mental and physical health.