Befriending services: when and how do they help?

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Janine led our latest paper from our Ageing Well project exploring ways to alleviate loneliness among diverse cultural groups. It helps fill a gap in current understanding about whether befriending services influence older peoples’ experiences of social isolation and loneliness, and if so, how

We explored older adults’ experiences of, and attitudes towards, a befriending service, among service users and non-service users, drawing on interviews and focus groups with 76 older adults, 10 volunteer visitors, and 20 service providers. Participants agreed that the befriending service helped alleviate social isolation and loneliness and that supportive services to foster connection are needed. Barriers to engagement included lack of knowledge, appropriateness of services and feeling undeserving. The befriending service was most successful when a match went beyond a transactional ‘professional-client’ relationship to resemble genuine friendship, underpinned by mutual interests and norms of reciprocity and reliability. We also identified five clear ideas about what characterizes an ideal supportive service; supported opportunities for getting out, genuine and reciprocal relationships, reliability, visitor characteristics, and connecting people to their culture. Befriending adds to social networks, and enhances connectedness to the community. Loneliness is alleviated when mutually beneficial and genuinely reciprocal relationships develop. However, group interventions or connections to community groups may be more appropriate for some.

For more information and a full copy of the paper please contact Merryn: m.gott@auckland.ac.nz

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