Here at the Campaign we try to keep up to date with the latest research into loneliness and the ways in which we can use it to help to tackle the issue. This month, we look at a study by Cohen-Mansfield and Perach which looked at a range of different interventions for tackling loneliness evaluated between 1996 and 2011.

What the research found

Chiming with other research, the review found that both group and one-to-one interventions could be successful at tackling loneliness in older age. A number of types of service or activity stood out as being effective in reducing loneliness for older adults living in the community, or in a care home:

  • Groups and befriending services with an educational focus e.g. one project helped people receiving care to build a relationship with their carers
  • Basing an activity around an interest you can share e.g. one group came together to discuss well-known works of art in their sheltered accommodation
  • Think about using the power of technology e.g. a program loaned people equipment and providing coaching and visits from volunteers
  • Don’t overlook therapy techniques e.g. animal-assisted therapy in care homes

Implications for practice

The review found that the groups or activities that most effectively reduced loneliness were often based around a shared interest, from choirs to art discussion groups, exercise classes to gardening programmes. They made a difference for adults living either in their own homes or in a care home setting.

Evaluations of schemes using technology produced mixed results: this highlight the importance of induction and support. For example, one scheme loaned an older person a computer and encouraged them to complete internet-related tasks but this had no impact on loneliness.

This review described some of the most successful education-based activities as having a ‘psychosocial’ element. This meant they aimed to help individuals to rebuild their social networks, and included lessons on self-esteem, individual counselling, therapeutic writing and teaching communication skills. Rather than just providing an activity or social group, services could think about what extra support could facilitate development of social networks and new friendships.

About the research

This critical review used six databases to look for studies conducted between 1996 and 2011 that had a sample of older adults and either implemented an intervention to tackle loneliness, or identify a situation that could have a direct impact on loneliness.