Loneliness and Social Isolation Interventions For Older Adults in Northern Ireland: A Mapping Exercise

Olujoke Fakoya

Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterpeer-review


Background: The ageing of the Northern Ireland population has major societal and policy implications. In particular, loneliness among the older population in NI (and elsewhere) has become a prominent issue. Several factors play a role in this ‘epidemic’ of loneliness including age, gender, living alone and/or loss of meaningful relationships, housing, and the ability to use technology as a means of communication. A mapping exercise is being undertaken in order to identify and describe loneliness interventions for older adults in Northern Ireland. The analysis of the results will provide a profile of the nature, extent, and accessibility of services and interventions that are provided for older people by the statutory, voluntary and private sectors.

Methods: A comprehensive (Google-driven) search was undertaken of sites relating to the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, NI charities, and voluntary organisations in order to obtain information about loneliness services for the older population and identify relevant contacts. A snowball sampling technique was used to identify further relevant contacts and organisations that the internet search did not highlight. Service providers were asked about other relevant services and the contact details of the key personnel responsible for leading or delivering the service. Northern Ireland-based services were included in the ‘map’ if they stated the explicit goal of preventing or reducing loneliness and/or social isolation among older people.

A questionnaire based on the TIDieR (Template for Intervention Description and Replication) checklist was devised to enable service providers to provide a complete structured account of their service. Emails were tailored to each organisation and sent to the lead contact person. The emails described briefly the objectives of the mapping exercise, the questionnaire, a request to complete the questionnaire and to participate in the data collection exercise. Face-to-face or telephone interviews were conducted with consenting key service informants. Interviews were recorded and transcribed and the data was subjected to a descriptive qualitative analysis.

Results: A total of 32 services or interventions with the stated outcomes of reducing loneliness and/or social isolation among the older population in Northern Ireland have been identified so far. The majority of the services are located and delivered in Belfast only however, some services are delivered across Northern Ireland. Two services are delivered in other devolved nations: the Red Cross Connecting Communities service is delivered in England, Scotland and Wales; and the Arthritis Research UK – Staying Connected service is delivered in Scotland. A total of 14 services (all located in the community and voluntary sector) have completed the TIDieR questionnaire. The needs of the target population of older adults who used these services included physical disability, mental health problems and, more generally, challenges related to old age.

Conclusion: Analysis is ongoing. The ‘map’ of loneliness interventions will profile local support organisations and groups that provide opportunities for older people to become better connected, more active, and subsequently increase their participation in society. Improved connectedness will increase the likelihood of an enhanced quality of life for older people and give them a sense of belonging to their local community.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusAccepted - 28 Mar 2019
EventGlobal Health Symposium 2019 - Queen's University Belfast, Belfast, United Kingdom
Duration: 02 May 201903 May 2019


ConferenceGlobal Health Symposium 2019
Abbreviated titleGHS2019
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


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