‘It was the deepest level of companionship’ : peer-to-peer experience of supporting community-dwelling older people with depression - a qualitative study

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

2 Scopus Citations
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Author(s)

  • Jessica P. S. Tang
  • Tianyin Liu
  • C. Y. Sing
  • Lesley C. Y. Sze
  • Terry Y. S. Lum
  • Samson Tse

Detail(s)

Original languageEnglish
Article number443
Journal / PublicationBMC Geriatrics
Volume22
Issue number1
Online published19 May 2022
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Link(s)

Abstract

Background: There is an ample body of literature examining the experiences and outcomes of peer support services for mental health recovery in western countries. However, formal peer support is only recently adapted and piloted to alleviate depression among older people, and little is known about how the peer-to-peer model might be lived out in the older Chinese population. This qualitative study investigated peer supporters’ (PS) perspectives of their roles and experiences of rendering formal peer support to community-dwelling older adults at risk of or living with depression in Hong Kong.
Methods: The study adopted a qualitative design. Five semi-structured focus groups were conducted with 27 trained peer supporters between the ages of 54-74 (21 females and 6 males) who had provided peer-to-peer support to older adults at risk of or living with depression in the community for at least 12 months. Thematic analysis was employed to derive content and meanings from the focus group transcripts.
Results: Participants’ mean age was 61.9 years; two-thirds of them were retired and the rest still engaged in part-time or full-time employment. Four themes were identified in relations to the roles and experiences in rendering the peer support services: (1) peerness in health and age-related lived experiences; (2) companionship, social and emotional ties beyond formal support; (3) meaningful roles to facilitate older people’s functional ability; and (4) hopes and actions against the undesirable outcomes of aging. Being a PS might provide meaningful roles for persons in transition to or living in late adulthood, and enable community-dwelling older adults with depression to maintain functional ability. On the other hand, defining the concept of ‘peer’ beyond the shared experience of mental distress, ensuring a healthy boundary between the peers and the service users, maintaining a careful balance between time-limited formal support and stable social ties, and providing self-management training and on-going support appear crucial.
Conclusions: This study of PS’ perspectives and experiences offer insights into the age-specific dimension of the peer relationship. Despite the promising effects it might offer, careful implementation of peer support among older adults is warranted to safeguard against the ensuing loss of meaningful social ties and the potential emotional distress.

Research Area(s)

  • Aging, Depression, Mental health, Peer support, Recovery, Social ties

Citation Format(s)

‘It was the deepest level of companionship’ : peer-to-peer experience of supporting community-dwelling older people with depression - a qualitative study. / Tang, Jessica P. S.; Liu, Tianyin; Lu, Shiyu; Sing, C. Y.; Sze, Lesley C. Y.; Lum, Terry Y. S.; Tse, Samson.

In: BMC Geriatrics, Vol. 22, No. 1, 443, 2022.

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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