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The changing role of the day centre for older people in addressing loneliness: a participatory action research study

NOONE, CATRIN (2023) The changing role of the day centre for older people in addressing loneliness: a participatory action research study. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Amid global interest in a ‘loneliness epidemic’ narrative, a fixation on the health consequences of loneliness in old age and the effectiveness of interventions in reducing the experience has emerged. Despite this, a lack of appreciation and chronic defunding of day centres, services that may serve the very purpose of addressing loneliness, has also ensued. Instead, controlled and standardised interventions have been favoured. With increases in ageism and loneliness reported since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic however, the suitability of such interventions and the context of loneliness itself may have changed. To investigate the potentially significant contribution day centres may play in addressing loneliness, this study will present an intimate and detailed understanding of their role.
In collaboration with an adult day centre in the North-East of England, a Participatory Action Research (PAR) study commenced in September 2020 in an attempt to understand the nature of the day centre in the lives of older people, and their experiences of loneliness in this context. Led by the voices of seventeen older co-researchers, telephone questionnaires, semi-structured interviews, focus groups, walking methods, photovoice and life story work were carried out, alternating between face-to-face and telephone contact across a sixteen-month period.
A story of the collective emerged that demonstrates both the value of a PAR approach to loneliness-based research with older adults and the methodological adaptations needed to better empower older people to participate as co-researchers. This led to a reconceptualisation of loneliness that challenges the individual pathology narrative inherent within existing theorisations, to look beyond medicalisation and toward a more contextual, and inherently relational, understanding that allows for the negotiation of loneliness. The community loneliness experience and framework, respectively, capture the nature of the feeling of loneliness, and how it manifests in one’s community through the configuration of social capital and social ties, social and spatial conditions and processes. In moving towards a contextualised understanding of loneliness, this thesis calls for the reframing of day centres as sites for relational practice, and the need for social work practitioners to assume a more central role in identifying and addressing loneliness experienced by older people.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Loneliness, older people, day centres, participatory action research
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Applied Social Sciences, School of
Thesis Date:2023
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:10 Jul 2023 08:49

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