Overcoming loneliness, isolation and social exclusion in old age

Many older people suffer from isolation or loneliness. Several studies have proven that good social contacts and relationships make a decisive contribution to improving health, health behaviour and increasing levels of activity. In a research project called ‘Gesundheit und soziale Teilhabe (GesTe) (health and social participation) which is due to begin in 2021 and is funded by the Theo and Friedl Schöller Foundation, researchers at the Institute of Psychogerontology at FAU are investigating how to promote social participation and thus also health and well-being in old age. The project is being funded with over 395,000 euros.

Extensive research has been carried out into the most important causes of loneliness, isolation and social exclusion. Physical limitations, the loss of a partner, relative or friend as well as events in one’s past and developments in society as a whole such as the increase in digitalisation can all lead to a loss of social contact and to a feeling of social exclusion. The ‘BegA Beratung für gesundes Altern’ (Advice for healthy ageing) project also funded by the Theo and Friedl Schöller Foundation from 2016 to 2020 proved the importance of a good social network and thus of good relationships for retaining a zest for life, the will to live and quality of life.

How can we increase social participation in old age?

During detailed interviews, researchers will determine and document participants’ individual reasons, current situation and preferences. On the basis of this knowledge, the advisors can draw up various interventions in close collaboration with participants and the people in their immediate surroundings to help them improve their social participation. These interventions focus on three aspects: reviving and intensifying previous or existing relationships, improving positive experiences of relationships with other people, and psychoeducative training and information about the positive health benefits of social relationships.

What are the scientific goals of the GesTe project?

The main focus of the ‘Gesundheit und soziale Teilhabe (GesTe)’ project is the development of new approaches for interventions to increase the social participation of older people as well as the scientific review and evaluation of these interventions.

In addition, students and doctoral candidates of gerontology and psychogerontology will receive practical and application-oriented training and gain additional qualifications by taking part in this project. The opportunity to gain direct contact with older members of society means that students will receive a comprehensive and unbiased insight into old age and ageing under professional guidance.

The general public will be informed about the project at an official event to be held next year. The event will only take place, however, if the relevant infection prevention measures allow.

More information is available on the Institute’s website.

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