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A realist evaluation of loneliness interventions for older people

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journal contribution
posted on 2021-08-23, 07:27 authored by Alice Day, Kay Phelps, John Maltby, Emma Palmer, Keith Snell, Derek Raine, Simon Conroy

Introduction

the aim of this study was to develop a programme theory to inform the design of loneliness interventions and guide any future evaluations.


Methods

we undertook a mixed-method evaluation, informed by the realist approach, of different approaches to loneliness in one health and social care system in the East Midlands, UK. We used a combination of documentary analysis, interviews/focus groups with service providers and users and quantitative analysis to develop an initial programme theory.


Results

common aims of local interventions included enhancing social connectivity, providing emotional support and advice/information; recurring interventions included social activities, emotional support, advice and information, lunch clubs, learning new skills and practical support. None were robustly evaluated.


Fifty-six service user or providers were involved in interviews or focus groups, which highlighted the causes of loneliness, preferred services, access to services, thoughts about intervention configuration and desired outcomes from services.


The themes emerging from the interviews/focus groups from both service provider and service user perspectives were combined with all of the previous emerging data to create an overarching programme theory. Statements were constructed to allow service providers to think about which interventions might be useful to achieve specific outcomes in different contexts.


Conclusion

the causes and consequences of loneliness vary widely between individuals, so a personalised approach is required to identify the causes and potential solutions. This study provides some high-level principles that can help commissioners and providers to tailor interventions to the individual needs of service users.

Funding

University of Leicester

History

Author affiliation

Department of Health Sciences, University of Leicester

Version

  • AM (Accepted Manuscript)

Published in

Age and Ageing

Volume

50

Issue

6

Pagination

2246-2253

Publisher

Oxford University Press (OUP)

issn

0002-0729

Acceptance date

2021-08-02

Copyright date

2021

Available date

2022-09-27

Language

en

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