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Enabling middle-aged and older adults accessing community services to reduce social isolation: Community Connectors

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E-pub ahead of print
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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>8/12/2020
<mark>Journal</mark>Health and Social Care in the Community
Number of pages8
Publication StatusE-pub ahead of print
Early online date8/12/20
<mark>Original language</mark>English

Abstract

A large number of older adults (65+ years) live on their own, and can experience high levels of loneliness. However, accessing activities to engage with their community can be difficult either due to their age and associated comorbidities, such as frailty, or due to financial reasons, for lacking the funds to access transport to activities. The aim of this study was to evaluate an existing service in the North West of England, Community Connectors, which enables people aged 18 and above to access social activities within their community in order to reduce loneliness and social isolation. This study only included middle-aged and older adults. A total of 13 semi-structured interviews were performed after people had taken part in the 14-week Community Connectors programme. Data were coded by two research team members by using thematic analysis. Members of the public were involved in the design of this study, and in the dissemination. Between June 2017 to September 2018, 234 older adults and 53 middle-aged adults were referred to Community Connectors. Four themes emerged from the interviews: falling out of society; easy self-referral; structured supportive services; and reconnecting with community. Services often depend on individuals making the first step to access, however, without easy or facilitated access people can becoming isolated. Participants reported on how Community Connectors provided easy and open access that enabled better response to individual needs. The structured support provided individuals with confidence in engaging with community activities and enhanced individuals’ social networks. Community Connectors enables middle-aged and older adults to engage with social activities in their community, and thus helps participants to feel less lonely and more socially connected. Future work needs to quantitatively measure the impacts of the service on loneliness, depression, and social connectedness in order to fully understand their impact.