Kristine Theurer is a researcher who pioneered the use of standardized peer support programs to address loneliness and social isolation in senior living. She is a published author of a number of research articles, the most recent of which The Need for a Social Revolution in Residential Care is the most downloaded article in the Journal of Aging Studies. She is currently continuing her research as a PhD candidate at the University of British Columbia. Kristine leads training workshops for staff working in health care in Canada and the US and presents regularly at international conferences. She has a Master of Arts in Gerontology and received numerous research awards including grants from the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. She serves on the planning committee for the national conference on culture change in Canada, hosted by the Schlegel-University of Waterloo Research Institute for Aging.
“It’s Given Me A New Life!”: Reducing Loneliness in Residential Care
Dr. Robyn I. Stone, a noted researcher and leading international authority on aging and long-term care policy, joined LeadingAge to establish and oversee the LeadingAge Center for Applied Research. She came to LeadingAge from the International Longevity Center-USA in New York, NY, where she was executive director and chief operating officer. Previously, she worked for the Federal Agency for Health Care Policy and Research (now known as the Agency for Health care Research and Quality). Stone also served the White House as deputy assistant secretary for disability, aging and long-term care policy and as acting assistant secretary for aging in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under the Clinton administration. She was a senior researcher at the National Center for Health Services as well as at Project Hope’s Center for Health Affairs. Stone was on the staff of the 1989 Bipartisan Commission on Comprehensive Health Care and the 1993 Clinton administration’s Task Force on Health Care Reform. Stone holds a doctorate in public health from the University of California, Berkeley.
Susan Brown is the Research Coordinator at the Schlegel-University of Waterloo Research Institute for Aging (RIA). She has a Bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology (Neurobehavioural Assessment), and completed a Master’s degree in Kinesiology (Psychomotor Behaviour), both from the University of Waterloo. As Research Coordinator, she oversees the implementation of RIA’s research projects and facilitates knowledge translation and dissemination of results to older adults, front-line staff, community groups and academics. Susan is especially interested in developing programs and services that are informed by research and that meet the needs of all stakeholder groups. Most importantly, she is passionate about using those same programs and services as vehicles to improve quality of life for older adults.
Research indicates that a significant number of those living in residential care settings such as long-term care, assisted living and retirement homes, experience chronic loneliness. Despite the benefits of congregate senior living, many residents experience a diminished sense of purpose and connection with others. Traditional busy activity calendars provide limited opportunities for contribution or the development of meaningful social relationships. Although some residents adapt, many remain isolated resulting in high rates of loneliness and associated depression. Lack of contribution perpetuates the stereotype associated with residents as passive recipients of care. Individuals engaged in peer mentoring draw benefits from the social and emotional connections; however, this approach is rare within these settings. In this workshop, participants will explore a new model of psychosocial care based on peer mentoring to address loneliness. Participants will have an opportunity to engage in a discussion surrounding programming challenges facing senior living and review current psychosocial practices. We will review the development of a novel peer mentoring intervention and the feasibility data associated with its implementation (e.g., information on recruitment and retention, acceptability of the intervention and study procedures; and participants’ objective and subjective responses). The Peer Support Centered Care Model, which has its foundations in social citizenship, provided a conceptual foundation for the peer mentoring intervention in which community volunteers (community mentors) and resident volunteers (resident mentors) formed a supportive team and provided mentorship and visitation to other residents that were lonely or socially isolated (visitees). For the mixed-methods feasibility study, we enrolled community mentors (n = 65), resident mentors (n = 48) staff facilitators (n = 24) and visitees (n = 74) in 10 residential care sites. Among the visitees at six months (n = 43), we found a significant reduction in loneliness (p = 0.02; d = .76) and depression (p = 0.02; d = .76), and a 60% increase in the number of monthly programs attended (p = 0.01; d = .37). Interviews with visitees (n = 32) indicated perceptions of the program were positive. Among the resident mentors remaining at six months (n = 28), a significant reduction in loneliness scores (p = .04; d = .29) and a near significant decrease in depression scores (p = .054; d = .26) were noted. In-depth interviews with a sample of resident mentors (n = 8) also revealed positive perceptions of the intervention. Most of the feasibility objectives were met; however, low retention rates among resident mentors were noted as well as some time and resource challenges.
Through interactive discussion processes, attendees of this workshop will be able to:
- identify and describe recent research on the outcomes of loneliness and social isolation;
- evaluate a novel peer mentoring model and program and the results of a study examining its feasibility in 10 continuing-care communities;
- experience a live peer-mentoring team meeting; and,
- identify a takeaway strategy implementing a peer mentoring model within an organization