Using science and a theatre play to combat loneliness in older people

Elderly individuals who live alone may experience a chronic lack of social interaction and emotional connection. Maastricht University researchers participated in a cross-border collaboration to prevent and combat loneliness in older people. This euPrevent PROFILE project resulted not only in scientific articles, but also in an overview of good practices as well as training and guidelines for professionals and volunteers. The outcomes were presented during a closing conference held on June 1st, and summarised in an inspirational guide

From time to time, everyone faces periods of loneliness. While it may be temporary for most, elderly people who live alone are particularly susceptible to prolonged feelings of loneliness. Therefore, euPrevent PROFILE project, which stands for the Prevention of Loneliness of Older People in the Euregion, aimed to prevent and tackle loneliness in older people. The researchers collaborated with partners in Belgium and Germany to raise awareness about loneliness and promote the exchange of knowledge and good practices within and between communities of the Euregion Meuse-Rhine. 

"One of the key strategies we have employed to achieve these goals is the promotion of intergenerational interaction," explains project coordinator Marja Veenstra. "Loneliness is not only experienced by older people but also affects young individuals. Encouraging intergenerational exchange and connecting different age groups can yield numerous potential mutual benefits. As part of the project, we organized several intergenerational citizens' summits, facilitating the exchange of experiences and knowledge on loneliness. Additionally, we promoted the sharing of intergenerational best practices between regions throughout the project's duration and developed a guide to sustain this approach."

The researchers conducted a comprehensive literature review to gain insights into the prevalence of loneliness and effective interventions and they developed e-health applications as part of their efforts. However, the team also employed unconventional approaches to raise awareness. Veenstra: "Discussing loneliness can be challenging. To facilitate open conversations, we adapted an existing theatre play called 'Starlight,' which was performed in various regions, each in their own language. This accessible experience provided an opportunity for people to engage in discussions about loneliness. The goal is for organizations to be able to independently perform the play 'Starlight' themselves."

All activities and results of the euPrevent PROFILE project are described in detail in the inspiration guide

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