How to approach older citizens living alone

Mar 11, 2022

The neighbourhood integrated approach. How to be a supportive figure to my older neighbours?

Social inclusion is not just a State responsibility, but also from the communities. INA approach proposes the creation of a support network between neighbours, organisations, and local entities, thus promoting the inclusion of older people in the community and providing them a better quality of life. As individuals, we also can contribute to their inclusion through developing more strong relationships, practical support and encouraging participation in community life.

Aproximar, CRL

Due to the increase in the older population, especially in Europe, several countries face the challenge of promoting quality of life and active ageing for this age group, which is often socially isolated. The social inclusion of older people is a responsibility not only of the State, but also of the communities. Through the collaboration of resident entities, organisations and citizens, it becomes possible to mobilise resources to meet the various specific needs of senior citizens. Most neighbourhood relations are superficial, and there are no supportive arrangements between elderly people living alone with other neighbours. It is necessary to create a culture of care that goes beyond the family level (Pleschberger et al.,2019)

The Integrated Neighbourhood Approach

The INA integrated neighbourhood approach is one that proposes linking formal and informal care providers in the community for the health, autonomy, well-being, and inclusion of older people. (Dijk, Cramm & Nieboer, 2016). One example is the "Support Programme 65 - Elderly in Safety", which exists in Portugal, and aims to promote safety and support to elderly citizens by bringing them closer to the national guard and other support entities (GNR, 2021).

An effective support network should involve all sectors. In the face of the social isolation of older people, it should be carried out: (1) the identification of those living alone (2) the assessment and referral to the appropriate support service (3) the articulation between services. However, given the limitations of these interventions, individual actions are crucial and complementary to the actions of organisations and entities. These can positively change older people's perspective on relationships (WHO, 2021)

What can I do as a citizen? How to approach those who live alone?

As individuals, neighbours and citizens of a community, our contribution can be very significant! It is known that older people tend to show more interest in closeness with others when tasks are proposed based on the common interests of both parties. This means that the approach towards the elderly should start from your knowledge of them. It is also necessary to understand that the approximation of the elderly, even if well intentioned, can be seen as an intrusion Attitudes such as: (1) strengthening neighbourhood and friendship relationships, talking and listening attentively; (2) seeking to know the person's life story, tastes and interests; (3) encouraging participation in community life from the interests of the elderly person (cultural activities, sports, volunteering, civic participation); (4) seek to facilitate accessibility to available community services and activities (rides, accompanied walks, availability to assist in solving certain problems ; (5) visit and invite to new social opportunities (events, courses, celebrations) ; (6) raise awareness among other resident citizens of the importance of an integrated approach in the neighbourhood (Silva, 2016), could incredibly strengthen older people's sense of belonging, safety and usefulness in the community. Consequently, they can make them more involved and active, with a better sense of well-being and self-esteem.

GNR. (sem data). Obtido 21 de Fevereiro de 2022, de

Grenade, L., & Boldy, D. (2008). Social isolation and loneliness among older people: issues and future challenges in community and residential settings. Australian Health Review, 32(3), 468-478.

Pleschberger, S., Reitinger, E., Trukeschitz, B., & Wosko, P. (2019). Older people living alone (OPLA)–non-kin-carers’ support towards the end of life: qualitative longitudinal study protocol. BMC geriatrics, 19(1), 1-8.

Silva, D. A. M. (2016). Comunidades de vizinhança em Portugal e na França: lidando com o isolamento social e a solidão dos idosos. Revista Longeviver, (49).

van Dijk, H. M., Cramm, J. M., & Nieboer, A. P. (2016). How to build an integrated neighborhood approach to support community-dwelling older people?. International journal of integrated care, 16(2).

van Dijk, H. M., Cramm, J. M., Birnie, E., & Nieboer, A. P. (2016). Effects of an integrated neighborhood approach on older people’s (health-related) quality of life and well-being. BMC Research Notes, 9(1), 1-10.

World Health Organization. (2021). Social isolation and loneliness among older people: advocacy brief.