BAB recently held the first meeting of the research reading group – an informal group which comes together to discuss a piece of research about older people’s loneliness and isolation.
For this first meeting we discussed an article called ‘What do older people experiencing loneliness think about primary care or community based interventions to reduce loneliness? A qualitative study in England’ (Kharicha and colleagues, 2017).
The discussion was very interesting and together we thought about what the findings could mean for BAB, our delivery partners and others working with older people. The study explored the views of people aged 65+ who reported being lonely and had no mobility problems. Some of the key insights from the article and our discussion are listed below.
If you would like to be involved in the reading group, let us know by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org, you would be very welcome. It is an informal group which meets approximately every 6 weeks and is focused on what the research means for you.
Here are our top 6 insights from the last meeting:
1. Even though someone may openly talk about feeling lonely, it does not mean that they will want to attend activities/services specifically targeted at loneliness. They may feel lonely much of the time, yet still view these activities as being for those who are ‘really desperate’. Participants in the study did not want to see themselves in this way – as so lonely they needed external help - and therefore preferred not to engage with services at all.
2. Individuals may feel that the labels of ‘old’ and ‘lonely’ erase other parts of their identity. The label of ‘lonely’, in particular, can give someone a sense of failure. For those who have gone through life with labels (for example women who may have always been labelled as somebody’s wife or somebody’s mother), they may prefer to avoid having further labels put upon them.
3. Individuals may be more likely to engage with a service that is focused on an activity, particularly if this activity matches their interests or previous hobbies. If they have never been interested in bingo, why would they suddenly start playing it when they turn 50?
4. Having a negative experience of a service/activity can have a long-lasting impact. For example a number of people in the study had accessed support services many years ago, yet their previous negative experience continued to affect their current views of all community based interventions, regardless of how different these were.
5. Knowing someone who attends an activity/service may reduce an individual’s feelings of unease and increase their chances of attending, possibly because they think ‘it can’t be that bad if so-and-so likes it’.
6. Most participants in the study viewed loneliness as a private matter, and would not engage with any services. This highlights the need to support people to ‘self-manage’ their loneliness, for example through meditation or other ways to look after their mental wellbeing.
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