OASIS and AARP Foundation team
to combat social isolation
Peer-led discussion groups connect older adults with support
Perhaps one of the greatest challenges of retirement and later life is a decline in social support as older adults begin to lose touch with co-workers, friends or family.
Supported by a grant from AARP Foundation, the OASIS Institute is working to help older adults help one another cope better with life’s transitions, and get them reconnected with their community.
“The combination of growing older and retirement often results in less frequent contact within our own personal networks,” says OASIS President, Marcia Kerz. “And that contributes to feelings of being disconnected.”
That’s why, since 2006, OASIS has operated a program called, “Peer-Led Discussion Groups.” Older adults are recruited to serve as volunteer discussion leaders and facilitate discussions on topics of emotional, spiritual, physical wellness and social interest. According to an article in BMC Public Health, research shows that group-based and activity-focused methods have been shown to be more effective in reducing feelings of isolation, than those that are individual-based and non-participatory.
"Peer discussion groups keep people engaged with one another through discussion of meaningful topics," says Marietta Ross, a volunteer group facilitator for the Peer-Led Discussion Group program in St. Louis. Mattie Berry, another volunteer facilitator, agrees. “People develop a more positive outlook just by sharing with each other. It’s a non-threatening, supportive atmosphere. Everybody’s opinion is valued.”
Over 2,000 older adults have participated in the program, which has been recognized with the RespectAbility Award from the National Council on Aging.
To date, however, the program has operated only in St. Louis. With the grant from AARP Foundation, OASIS will be able to expand the program to conduct additional research to establish it as an evidence-based method for reducing social isolation among older adults. Once proven effective, the program can be expanded across the country through the OASIS network.
“With the number of older Americans feeling isolated growing daily, it is a challenge to reach everyone and ensure that those who need support know where to find it,” says Maxine B. Baker, AARP Foundation Senior Vice President, Impact Areas. “That is why AARP Foundation chose OASIS as an Isolation grantee. OASIS knows at the local level where and how to address the challenges of social disconnection in their community. Their peer-led discussion groups help keep adults 50+ engaged.”
Through this program, OASIS’ goal is to connect low income older adult participants to resources, information and social contacts.
To learn more about the OASIS Peer Led Discussion Group project, contact Sarah Lovegreen, Health Manager, (314) 862-4859, x25, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.oasisnet.org.
About the OASIS Institute
OASIS is a national education organization dedicated to enriching the lives of adults age 50 and older through lifelong learning and service. Offering stimulating programs in the arts, humanities, health, technology and volunteer service, OASIS brings people together to learn, lead and contribute in their communities. The OASIS Institute in St. Louis is the headquarters of a national network that serves a diverse audience through educational centers and community partners in 40 U.S. cities. For more information, visit www.oasisnet.org
About AARP Foundation
AARP Foundation is working to win back opportunity for struggling Americans 50+ by being a force for change on the most serious issues they face today: housing, hunger, income and isolation. By coordinating responses to these issues on all four fronts at once, and supporting them with vigorous legal advocacy, the Foundation serves the unique needs of those 50+ while working with local organizations nationwide to reach more people, work more efficiently and make resources go further. AARP Foundation is the charitable affiliate of AARP. Learn more at www.aarpfoundation.org.