Peer-to-peer support model to improve quality of life among highly vulnerable, low-income older adults in Cape Town, South Africa

TitlePeer-to-peer support model to improve quality of life among highly vulnerable, low-income older adults in Cape Town, South Africa
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsGeffen LN, Kelly G, Morris JN, Howard EP
JournalBMC geriatrics
ISBN Number1471-2318
Accession Number31640576
KeywordsHome visitors, interRAI check-up, Peer-to-peer support model

BACKGROUND: Developing countries are experiencing rapid population ageing. Many do not have the resources or formal structures available to support the health and wellbeing of people as they age. In other contexts, the use of peer support programmes have shown favourable outcomes in terms of reducing loneliness, increasing physical activity and managing chronic disease. Such programmes have not been previously developed or tested in African countries. We piloted a peer-to-peer support model among vulnerable community-dwelling adults in a developing country (South Africa) to examine the program's effect on wellbeing and social engagement. METHODS: A pre-post, pilot design was used to evaluate targeted outcomes, including wellbeing, social support, social interaction, mood, loneliness and physical activity. A total of 212 persons, aged 60+ years and living independently in a low-income area in Cape Town were recruited and screened for eligibility by trained assessors. Participants were assessed using the interRAI CheckUp, WHO-5 Wellbeing index, and the MOS-SS 8 instruments before and after the 5-month intervention, during which they received regular visits and phone calls from trained peer volunteers. During visits volunteers administered a wellness screening, made referrals to health and social services; built friendships with clients; encouraged social engagement; promoted healthy living; and provided emotional and informational support. RESULTS: Volunteer visits with clients significantly increased levels of self-reported wellbeing by 58%; improved emotional and informational support by 50%; decreased reports of reduced social interaction by 91%; reduced loneliness by 70%; improved mood scores represented as anxiety, depression, lack of interest or pleasure in activities, and withdrawal from activities of interest; and increased levels of physical activity from 49 to 66%. DISCUSSION: The intervention led to demonstrable improvement in client wellbeing. Policymakers should consider integrating peer-support models into existing health programs to better address the needs of the elderly population and promote healthy ageing in resource-poor community settings. Longer-term and more rigorous studies with a control group are needed to support these findings and to investigate the potential impact of such interventions on health outcomes longitudinally.


Alternate JournalBMC Geriatr