What can volunteering do for you? Resilience, befriending and social support in the age of COVID

Presenter: Professor Colleen Doyle and Marcia Fearn, NARI

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About the presentation

Social isolation has increased during the COVID pandemic, preventing physical health impacts but exacerbating mental health impacts for many people. This seminar will discuss volunteering and highlight the role of volunteering in maintaining mental health, using the intervention of ‘befriending’ as an example. At NARI, the BEFRIENDAS study has been examining the impact of befriending, or regular contact with a volunteer, on the mental health of older people living in residential care. However, there is evidence that befriending can also have benefits for the volunteer befriender themselves. We will present preliminary results describing the experience of befriending, and present preliminary results on volunteers’ loneliness, knowledge and attitudes to ageing. We will discuss the impact of age (young, old), CALD background and type of befriending (remote, face to face) on the experience of befriending and summarise how volunteering can help. 

About the presenter

Professor Colleen Doyle is a senior principal research fellow at NARI and a research consultant. She was Professor of Aged Care at the Australian Catholic University 2012-2017 in a health service research partnership with Villa Maria Catholic Homes. In 2018-20 she has provided contract research advice for the federal Office of the e-safety Commissioner, Nursing and Midwifery Health Program Victoria and Interplast Australia. Her research with NARI focuses on two projects: BEFRIENDAS, the impact of befriending for older adults living in residential aged care and PITCH, the development of dementia training for health care workers, both funded by NHMRC; ways to improve dementia care and health service evaluation. She founded the Australian Psychological Society Psychology and Aging Interest Group. Colleen has published extensively on aged care, including as lead author for a book published internationally in 2018 on ‘Moving into residential care; a practical guide for older people and their families’.

Marcia Fearn has a background in psychology and social science and is a research officer as well as the Research Administration Officer (RAO) at NARI. She is the project coordinator for the BEFRIENDAS randomised controlled trial, exploring the impact of befriending provided by volunteers on depression, anxiety and loneliness in older people living in residential aged care. Previously Marcia was involved in a randomised controlled trial that focused on treatments for anxiety and depression in people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, with a particular interest in the befriending component.

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Further information: [email protected]

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