'She shouldn't cross the line': Experiential effectivity of social guidance trajectories for socially isolated older adults with complex problems

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Social isolation of older adults is difficult to break through, and interventions that focus on network development or enhanced social participation are hardly effective, especially when the older adults have been isolated for a long time and have problems in multiple life domains. This study aimed to investigate the needs and subjective experiences of this less-researched group and obtain a deeper understanding of their goals and priorities.
The study involved a qualitative study with 25 socially isolated persons who receive assistance from a social worker in an individual guidance trajectory. Data were collected via repeated in-depth interviews with the older adults. By directing the focus towards their subjective experiences, the study gives insight into the ‘experiential effectivity’ of the intervention. It shows what their experienced problems were, and to what degree they benefited from the intervention in this respect. The experience of personal attention and involvement of the social workers represents the most relevant results for them. The participants have no need for network development or engagement in local communities. Yet, the help offered by the social workers produces other results for them, such as solved practical problems, emotional support, more self-sufficiency, a point of contact or a safety net that was not there before. This knowledge can help to improve the quality of intervention for this target group.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1686-1709
JournalAgeing & Society
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jul 2020


  • social isolation
  • social work
  • relational attunement
  • social intervention
  • experiential effectivity
  • social network
  • participation
  • personal attention

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