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Friendship in Late Adulthood

Title: Understanding Friendships of Rural Dwelling Older Adults
Researchers:

Student Researchers: Zhiao (Linda) Li & Anna Zhao

Research Supervisors: Lynn Cockburn & Barry Trentham

Year of Study: 2019-2020
Description: 

This study is part of a larger project exploring how older adults experience transitions in their social relationships. The goal of this specific study was to investigate the unique experiences of older adults living in rural settings.

The objectives of this study were:

1.  To understand the experiences of rural-dwelling older adults as they navigate the changing nature of friendships

2. To understand how these older adults perceive the role of occupational therapy in their friendship transitions.

Using a narrative inquiry approach, six rural-dwelling older adults with ages ranging from 65 to 95 were interviewed. Interviews focused on participant’s experiences with friendships, changes to their friendships across the life span, the impacts of these changes, and their perception of how occupational therapists can play a role in these changes to their friendships. Interviews were transcribed orthographically and transcripts were analyzed using Braun and Clark’s constructivist approach to thematic analysis.

Four themes discovered were:

1. Friendships through activity: For the participants, friends can be made and maintained through activity.

2. Rural realities (weather and distance; reciprocity): Unique experiences of rural-swelling older adults.

3. Stronger bonds and deeper connections: Participant’s friendships grew stronger with age

4. Transient feelings of loneliness: Participants felt lonely occasionally but generally felt satisfied with their current friendships.

5. What can you do for me?: While participants expressed they do not currently need support for their friendships, they expressed that occupational therapists may play a beneficial role in the future.

Findings from the study were presented at the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists (CAOT) 2020 Annual Conference and the Annual Rural Health Conference 2020.

 

Title: Developing and maintaining friendships: Narratives of older adults with Parkinson’s disease
Researchers:

Student Researchers: Jillian Ross & Jordana Satok

Research Supervisors: Lynn Cockburn & Barry Trentham

Year of Study: 2019-2020
Description:

This study was part of a larger research study exploring how older adults experience transitions in their social relationships. The objectives of our specific study were: 1) to explore and understand how older adults with Parkinson’s disease (PD) experience friendships and 2) to understand how occupational therapists (OTs) could enable the development and maintenance of friendships of older adults with PD. Six older adults 65 with PD took part in virtual one-on-one 30 to 75 minute qualitative narrative interviews, where they were asked to share their experiences of friendships with a researcher. Three main themes emerged through analysis of the six interviews:

1) Activity Enables Friendship-Activity provided a structure and environment that allowed participants to meet people with similar experiences or interests, to socialize with new and old friends, and to see friends consistently.

2) The Friendship Continuum-Participants spoke about the people in their friend network in very different ways indicating that a continuum of relationships existed, ranging from their deepest friends, to friends, to acquaintances.

3) OTs linking people to practical and social support-Participants expressed a need to be properly linked to practical information and social supports after being diagnosed with PD, and agreed that OTs could potentially facilitate this process.

Overall, this research provides a starting point to carve out the role OTs can play in developing and maintaining friendships.

 

Title:

Older Adult Immigrants’ Narratives on Friending Occupations during Social Transitions

Researchers:

Student Researchers: Jasmine Bacola & Samanta Rivas-Argueta

Research Supervisors: Lynn Cockburn & Barry Trentham

Year of Study: 2019-2020
Description:

This study is part of a larger project exploring how older adults experience transitions in their social relationships. The goal of this specific study was to investigate the unique experiences of first-generation older adult immigrants. The objectives of this study were: (1) understand the lived experiences of older adult immigrants engaging in “friending”, (2) explore how immigration impacts “friending” occupations. Eight community-dwelling older adult immigrants living in Ontario participated in semi-structured interviews. Interviews were analyzed using Braun and Clark’s (2006) thematic analysis. Four preliminary themes were identified from the participants’ narratives: Structure is needed to meet people, but is it enough to make friends?; Friends come naturally with commonality while differences create perceived obstacles; Reaching friendship saturation; and Immigration timing: an indicator of the friending experience. The results are interpreted through a life course perspective.  The findings of this study raise awareness on “friending” occupations as experienced by older adult immigrants and its relevance for Occupational Therapists when working with older adult immigrants. Findings from the study were presented at the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists (CAOT) 2020 Annual Conference.

 

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