Loneliness cure: involve, don't 'distract'

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A group of international researchers has imagined a new approach to combating loneliness often associated with long-term care settings.

Calling residents “a largely untapped resource,” a team led by the University of British Columbia wants to replace strategies that focus on entertainment or distraction with those that focus on resident contributions.

The new model, referred to as Resident Engagement and Peer Support, or REAP, calls for interventions that advance social identity, encourage relationships and increase productivity.

Traditionally, the kind of care provided to lonely or depressed residents centers around what the researchers termed “light” social events, including staff-led games, trips and social gatherings.

There's also a fear of too much resident autonomy. Plus, researchers reported in the December issue of the Journal of Aging Studies that depression persisted, even if some participants found momentary enjoyment.

“Programs fostering engagement and peer support provide opportunities for residents to be socially productive and to develop a valued social identity,” researchers said.