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Older Users of a Befriending Service in Ireland and the Maintenance of Personal Autonomy during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Holton, Eimile, Fitzpatrick, Rachel, Maguire, Rebecca, Commins, Seán, Scharf, Thomas, Lawlor, Brian, Johnson, Natalie, Hannigan, Caoimhe and Power, Joanna McHugh (2021) Older Users of a Befriending Service in Ireland and the Maintenance of Personal Autonomy during the COVID-19 Pandemic. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18 (6). p. 2788. ISSN 1660-4601

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In the Republic of Ireland (RoI), COVID-19 public health guidelines have been most restrictive for people aged 70 and over. Such individuals are most likely to avail of befriending services offered by a network of Irish organisations. The aim of this study was to explore the impact of COVID-19 guidelines on befriending service users, and to develop recommended adaptations to befriending services compatible with such guidelines. A qualitative constructivist grounded theory approach was taken to the study design and analysis, using semi-structured interviews to collect data from 11 participants by telephone between May 2020 and January 2021. Results show a grounded theory describing how older users of a befriending service maintained their personal autonomy in the face of strict government guidelines. Participants described living life as usual, often contravening guidelines, and how they chose to adapt to the situation, yielding both positive and negative outcomes. Some potential adaptations were discussed to the befriending service (including a preserved focus on the social and emotional functions of the befriending relationship, and the accommodation of collaborative decision making about communicative alternatives), but ultimately it was made clear that participants would tailor the services to their own preferences. Results have implications for befriending service design and delivery, and for public health officials who wish to support the health of older adults during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Befriending; COVID-19; public health; grounded theory; older adults
Subjects: R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain > Ireland
H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare > Welfare of older people
Divisions: School of Business > Staff Research and Publications
Depositing User: Clara Chan
Date Deposited: 25 Apr 2022 13:11
Last Modified: 25 Apr 2022 14:57

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