The meaning and types of friendships among older females in residential care facilities
This research explores the meaning that older persons ascribe to the friendships in which they engage. Previous research mostly focuses on the strain that the older population places on the self-reliant community. The older person is faced by many challenges, such as sickness, loss of social and emotional support and death. Friendships serve as a support for physical and emotional needs which could not always be addressed by the family. The aim of this research is to explore the type of friendships in which older persons prefer to engage and the meanings they assign to it. A qualitative study was identified as the most appropriate method and focus groups and personal interviews were used as methods of data collection. Data was analysed by means of thematic content analysis. Findings indicated that different types of friendships exist and that different meanings were attached to friendships. Meaning in friendships is promoted by trustworthy friends who are able to form a deepened level of connection through the support and the compassion they are able to give each other. The experience of connection in friendships is furthermore enhanced through mobility, proximity and technology that facilitate better emotional as well as physical support for the older individual. Informal friendships with younger people ensure that older people are more mobile and are able to maintain their friendships. It is also a great source of support in cases where family members are not able to provide support, due to whatever reason. Further exploration of the value of friendships is recommended, so as to plan more specific intervention strategies. Some insights have already been gathered in this study concerning the way in which mobility, proximity and modern technology can make it possible to sustain a friendship. Further studies could explore ways to empower older people through providing better mobility, proximity and the use of modem technology. Such studies may also explore the needs which an old age home fulfils, such as improving the residents' access to one another, for mutual support. Proximity might be a solution for the immobility experienced in the older community, and when older people are taught to use modern technology they will be enabled to maintain their friendships better.
- Humanities