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AGING & MENTAL HEALTH – 2020 Abstract

‘It Makes Life Worthwhile!’ Peer Mentoring in Long-Term Care—A Feasibility Study

Objectives: Loneliness and depression are of increasing concern in long-term care homes made more urgent by viral outbreak isolation protocols. An innovative program called Java Mentorship was developed that engaged community volunteers and resident volunteers (mentors) as a team. The team met weekly, received education, and provided visits and guidance in pairs to socially disengaged residents (mentees). The purpose of this study was to assess the feasibility of conducting a larger study.

Method: We conducted a mixed-methods pre-post study to evaluate the program. We collected feasibility data associated with the program implementation, including assessment of the sample and ability to recruit; procedures for data collection; retention, program adherence and acceptability; and residents’ responses including loneliness, depression, purpose in life, social identity and sense of belonging outcomes. We enrolled community mentors (n = 65), resident mentors (n = 48) staff facilitators (n = 24) and mentees (n = 74) in 10 Canadian sites.

Results: Most feasibility objectives were met, and adherence and acceptability were high. Some resource challenges and low retention rates among resident mentors were noted. We found a 29% reduction in depression scores (p = .048; d = .30) and 15% reduction in loneliness scores (p = .014; d = .23). Purpose in life, social identity and sense of belonging were unchanged. Interviews among participants indicated high acceptability and positive perceptions of the program.

Conclusion: The study findings reveal a potential role for mentorship as a viable approach to reducing loneliness and depression in long-term care settings and lay the groundwork for future research.


The Impact of Peer Mentoring on Loneliness, Depression, and Social Engagement in Long-Term Care

Loneliness, depression, and social isolation are common among residents living in long-term care homes, despite the activities provided.

Java Mentorship is a peer mentoring program in which community volunteers (community mentors) and resident volunteers (resident mentors) form a supportive team and provide visits and guidance to other residents that are lonely or socially isolated (mentees).

Published in the Journal of Applied Gerontology, this study was a collaboration between the University of British Columbia, the Schlegel-UW Research Institute for Aging and Schlegel Villages in Ontario, Canada.

The research involved community mentors (n = 65), resident mentors (n = 48) staff facilitators (n = 24) and mentees (n = 74) in 10 senior living sites.

This article describes the impact of  Java Mentorship program on residents being visited (mentees). Using a mixed-methods approach, the study explored the impact on their loneliness, depression, and social engagement and described their perceptions of the visits. 

After 6 months, mentees (n = 43) showed a 30% reduction in depression (p = .02, d = .76), a 12% reduction in loneliness (p = .02, d = .76), and a 60% increase in the number of monthly programs attended (p = .01, d = .37). The analysis of mentee’s interviews revealed positive perceptions: “I used to feel that I’m old and dried up. Sometimes I thought I would go crazy”, and ““I like to feel that someone cares. I can be lonely at night” and “I enjoy that—that someone likes me that I never suspected would like me”.

The Java Mentorship program offers an innovative, nonpharmacological alternative to the treatment of loneliness and depression. Read more here: The Journal of Applied Gerontology


Reducing Loneliness and Depression: The Power of Peer Mentoring in Long-term Care

The study also examined the impact of the mentoring on the residents doing the visits. Among resident mentors, a significant reduction in loneliness scores (p = .014; d = .23) and depression scores (p = .048; d = .30) were noted along with positive perceptions of the program.

One mentor described the personal impact of helping others: “It’s changed my life. It makes me feel like I am needed.”

Read more here: JAMDA (The Journal of American Medical Directors Association).

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A pilot study implementing the JAVA Music Club in residential care: Impact on cognition and psychosocial health

Other research has been conducted at the Psychology Department at Ryerson University in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

This study, published in Aging & Mental Health, investigated the effects of the Java Music Club, an innovative peer support program for senior living, on cognition and psychosocial health among residents using a pre-post mixed-methods approach.

Analyses showed decreased loneliness from and reductions in depressive symptoms and subjective memory complaints. Participants’ qualitative interviews illustrate that the Java Music Club was a positive experience that promoted social engagement.

Recreation coordinators reported that the group was unlike currently available group programs and increased socialization between residents.

Read more here: Aging & Mental Health

To read more about the research conducted on the Java programs go here: Java Programs Research or contact Dr. Kristine Theurer at [email protected]