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'Bringing the outside world in': Enriching social connection through health student placements in a teaching aged care facility

Annear, MJ ORCID: 0000-0003-4474-2543, Elliot, K ORCID: 0000-0002-4726-5685, Tierney, L ORCID: 0000-0003-0919-8706, Lea, EJ ORCID: 0000-0001-7346-5667 and Robinson, A 2017 , ''Bringing the outside world in': Enriching social connection through health student placements in a teaching aged care facility' , Health Expectations, vol. 20, no. 5 , pp. 1154-1162 , doi:

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Background: Older adults living in residential aged care facilities (RACFs) often experiencelimited opportunities for social connection despite close proximity to peers, which hasimplications for mental health and quality of life (QoL). The introduction of large-scaleundergraduate health student placements in RACFs may enhance opportunities formeaningful engagement through social connection, although this remains unexplored.Objective: This research explores whether interpersonal encounters between healthstudents and RACF residents influence residents’ opportunities for social connectionand QoL.Methods: A mixed methods design was employed which included questionnaire datafrom residents, and qualitative interview data from residents, family members andRACF staff. Data were collected during and after student placements to allow for anin-depth exploration of residents, family members and staff perspectives.Results: Forty-three participants (28 residents, 10 staff and five family members) wererecruited during 2014. Overall, many residents had clinical levels of depression, mildcognitive impairment and multiple morbidities, however reported moderate-to-goodQoL. Thematic analysis was undertaken on interview transcripts, and three themesemerged: (i) social isolation and loneliness fostered by residents’ age-related conditions,(ii) students expand socially supportive connections beyond the RACF and (iii) meaningmaking by sharing health experiences, which was found to help renegotiate olderadults’ pervasive narrative of vulnerability.Conclusion: Supported and structured health student placements in RACFs enableolder adults to participate in meaningful encounters with younger people. Theseencounters focus on sharing health experiences and address long-standing issues ofisolation and loneliness by providing opportunities for social connection.

Item Type: Article
Authors/Creators:Annear, MJ and Elliot, K and Tierney, L and Lea, EJ and Robinson, A
Keywords: aged care, quality of life, student placements
Journal or Publication Title: Health Expectations
Publisher: Wiley
ISSN: 1369-6513
DOI / ID Number:
Copyright Information:

© 2017 The Authors Health Expectations Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

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