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O’Rourke H, Collins L, Souraya S. Interventions to address social connectedness and loneliness for older adults: A scoping review BMC Geriatrics. 2018; 18(1): 214.
• What interventions and strategies can address loneliness and social connectedness among older adults?
• Older adults are at an increased risk for loneliness compared to the general population.
• Health factors include chronic disease experiences that interfere with functioning, and cognitive decline resulting in communication impairments, and the inability to remember significant others or recent interactions with them.
• Contextual factors relate to lacking someone you could talk to, relocation to a care facility, loss of loved ones due to death, and spending too much time alone or doing nothing, which causes feelings of separation from others.
• Lonely people are at risk for poor health and wellbeing outcomes, including poor life satisfaction, depression, low self-esteem, reduced hope, negative emotions, and impaired functions in daily activities.
• Interventions to promote social connectedness are needed to address this problem.
• This systematic review was conducted to map the literature on interventions and strategies to address loneliness and social connectedness among older adults.
• A comprehensive literature search was conducted in six electronic databases.
• 5,530 papers were identified, of which 54 were included in this review after assessing their eligibility.
• Data on interventions, strategies, and their associated contexts were extracted for analysis.
• The main author of this review was supported by a Canadian Institutes of Health Research postdoctoral fellowship.
• Researchers found 39 studies describing or evaluated interventions, and five studies that described strategies to decrease loneliness in older adults or their caregivers.
• The studies were mostly conducted in the United States among community-dwelling, cognitively intact older adults. Only a few studies examined the effect of these interventions and strategies on non-white participants.
• Strategies described most often were engaging in purposeful activity and maintaining contact with each participant’s social network (in other words, their personal network of social interactions and relationships).
• Nine types of interventions were identified, the most frequently described being one-to-one personal contacts and group activities.
• Studies revealed mixed evidence about how these interventions and strategies influenced loneliness and social connectedness. However, social contacts were the most frequently identified influencing factor.
• Findings from this review identified interventions and strategies that have been designed to address loneliness and social connectedness for older adults.
• Research to test the various theories of why interventions and strategies work is needed to advance understanding of how address loneliness and social connectedness.