“Befriending involves having a conversation with a person about everyday topics and events in a friendly way without discussing health problems or emotions.”

Loneliness is a sign that we need to form more meaningful connections with others, and as we age, it’s not uncommon for relationships to decline due to the loss of loved ones to advancing age or illness. A recent investigation into loneliness, The Australian loneliness Report, reveals that 1 in 4 Australians feel lonely three or more days a week, and nearly 55 per cent of the population feel that they lack companionship sometimes.

Emerging evidence has shown that social pain-the painful feelings that follow from social rejection, exclusion, or loss-relies on some of the same neural regions that process physical pain, highlighting a possible physical-social pain overlap.

Older adults who are isolated and alone have limited ability to engage in conversations and activities with others and can suffer from a lack of meaningful and supportive communication. This lack of opportunity to tell their own stories means that the ability to validate their lives, recognise themselves as they currently are and make sense of their stage of life is impacted.

The National Ageing Research Institute (NARI) is conducting research into understanding the impact of befriending people living in residential care and delivering training to staff and volunteers working in aged care.

The literature provides some evidence for befriending in alleviating depression, anxiety, social isolation and loneliness as well as improving quality of life and wellbeing, but few studies have been conducted for older adults living in residential care.

Let’s do more befriending!