Be a friend, befriend an older person

Be a friend, befriend an older person and be part of a major project aimed at helping to reduce depression and anxiety in people living in aged care homes.

NARI is recruiting volunteers to take part in a befriending program, one of the first to be run in Australia. Befriending is a new approach to link older people with a ‘friend’ to talk about everyday topics and events without discussing health problems or emotions.

Professor Colleen Doyle, lead researcher, said NARI was currently recruiting volunteers who could ‘befriend’ older people living in aged care homes in the Melbourne suburbs of Glenroy and Ivanhoe.

Volunteers will be asked to visit a resident once a week for a period of four months.  They will undergo a training session prior to beginning the befriending visits and will be provided with support throughout the program.  After the befriending program, they will be asked some questions about their experience.

According to Professor Doyle, about half of people living in residential aged care facilities may have significant depression symptoms.

“This may be because of individual physical health factors, high prevalence of grief and loss among the residents, and the social environment. Many residents are socially isolated even though they are in communal living, and social isolation is a contributor to depression.” Professor Doyle said.

The befriending research, funded through the National Health and Medical Research Council and beyondblue, includes a randomised controlled trial of befriending compared with treatment as usual to improve depression, anxiety, social support and loneliness among residents. An economic evaluation will also examine the costs and benefits of the program.

No studies have been carried out to test the effectiveness of befriending or non-directive emotional and social support for relieving depression symptoms experienced by older adults living in residential aged care facilities despite some evidence for its effectiveness in other settings.

If you are interested in being involved or would like more information, please contact Marcia Fearn m.fearn@nari.edu.au or (03) 8387 2305).