Offering older people group-based excursions as part a home support program can reduce social isolation and improve quality of life, a study has found.

Dr Joyce Siette

A team from Macquarie University focused on the Community Connections program run by WA based provider Enrich Living Services.

Researchers say their work represents some of the first evidence of the effectiveness of group excursion activities to improve quality of life for people receiving community aged care.

Outings offered via Community Connections cover a broad range of activities and last from two hours to half a day.

Routine activities include movies, river cruises and restaurant meals, while more adventurous options include ice skating, horse riding and Harley Davidson riding.

The study surveyed 56 Perth-based CHSP and HCP recipients with a mean age of 83 who had participated in at least one group excursion a fortnight over a period of six months.

They were picked up and dropped home and staff were available to attend to physical needs such as toileting.

Data was collected between October 2018 and April 2019.

Improved quality of life

Participants were surveyed before and after starting the program and the Adult Social Care Outcomes Toolkit (ASCOT) was used to  assess quality of life.

Before starting the program most described their quality of life as moderate, but afterwards everyone said they felt happier and more confident, the researchers report in BMC Geriatrics.

The study also found increased socialisation, with some participants establishing friendships that developed into enduring relationships, as well as improved psychological and physical wellbeing.

Factors that made the group excursions successful included supportive staff, tailored activities, convenience and accessibility.

“Older adults experienced a significant increase in quality of life scores between baseline and six months,” the researchers reported.

“Interviews also revealed being in a group setting, having tailored, convenient and accessible activities, alongside supportive staff, were key drivers in improving the wellbeing of participants.”

Carers were also interviewed, and they also reported improvements, lead researcher Joyce Siette says.

Some barriers

However, there were some challenges, including limited spaces for some of the activities, costs involved in providing them and having enought staff.

Some participants also reported feeling socially disconnected and excluded from social interactions even during the outings.

However Dr Siette says the research shows that future government initiatives for older people who are still living at home should prioritise initiatives that encourage social connections.

“Excursion, group-based activities that focus on building and bridging relationships can create a sense of belonging and inclusion, address social loneliness and improve older adults’ physical, mental and social outcomes,” she said.

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