Combating loneliness: A friendship enrichment programme for older women
Number of pages
SourceAgeing and Society, 21, 2, (2001), pp. 183-202
Article / Letter to editor
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Ageing and Society
Research indicates that friendship contributes to wellbeing in later life in various ways: through the provision of companionship in daily life, support during stressful transitions, sustainment of identity under changing circumstances and adaptation to old age. However not all older people have friends available who fulfil these different functions. In order to promote wellbeing and reduce loneliness, an educational programme on friendship enrichment for older women has been developed and implemented in the Netherlands. The friendship programme's main goal is empowerment; it helps women clarify their needs in friendship, analyse their current social network, set goals in friendship and develop strategies to achieve goals. Reduction of loneliness, when present, is also an important goal of the programme. A study that followed 40 participants during the year after the programme demonstrates that a majority succeeded in developing new, or improving existing, friendships and in significantly reducing their loneliness. They also reported changes related to the self and social behaviour. Limitations of the research design, reflection on the feasibility of reducing loneliness through a single type of intervention, and possible applications of the programme's design to other areas, are presented in the discussion.
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