Call for volunteers for befriending project


We are looking for volunteers from Melbourne's north east area including Roxburgh Park, Mill Park and around St Helena. Italian speakers are particularly sought after.

NARI is looking for people who are interested in helping older people who live in residential aged care and who may be experiencing symptoms of depression, anxiety or loneliness.

The volunteers will be involved in a befriending program, one of the first to be run in Australia. Befriending involves having a conversation with a person about everyday topics and events in a friendly way without discussing health problems or emotions.

“We want to know whether undertaking befriending with older people living in residential aged care helps reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety and decreases their loneliness,” Professor Colleen Doyle said.

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 in even though they are in communal living, and social isolation is a contributor to depression.” Professor Doyle said.

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.

The befriending research, funded through the National Health and Medical Research Council, includes a randomized 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.

If you are interested in being involved or would like more information, please contact Marcia Fearn or (03) 8387 2305).

This study has been funded by the National Health & Medical Research Council and has been approved by the Austin Health Human Research Committee (reference HREC/45941/Austin-2018).


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