A scoping review of friendship intervention for older adults: lessons for designing intervention for people with aphasia

Natalie F. Douglas, Brent Archer, Jamie H. Azios, Katie A. Strong, Nina Simmons-Mackie, Linda Worrall

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Purpose: Map the landscape of friendship interventions/programs for older adults to guide intervention/program development inclusive of the unique needs of older people with aphasia (PWA). Methods: A search query of multiple databases was completed for articles published before 4 January 2021. Studies included all the following: (1) participants aged 55 years or older; (2) addressed an intervention/program designed to prevent social isolation and/or friendship loss; (3) used an outcome variable related to social isolation and/or friendship; and (4) published in a peer-reviewed journal. Title and abstract screening were conducted using Covidence software, which tracked disagreements across the study team. All studies included in the full-text review were identified as relevant by a minimum of two study authors, and a consensus was reached on all full-text reviews. Data were extracted according to (1) theoretical frameworks used; (2) interventionist and discipline; (3) participant characteristics; (4) intervention/program replicability; (5) format of intervention/program; (6) measures used in the intervention/programs; (7) and, reported effects of intervention/programs on individuals. Results: A total of 40 articles with 42 intervention/programs were included and represented 4584 intervention/program participants ranging in age from 40 to 104 years. Intervention/programs involved a wide range of theoretical frameworks (e.g., theories of loneliness, feminist theory, positive psychology). Disciplines such as psychology and exercise science informed intervention/programs. Interventionists included many types of individuals like therapists, volunteers and home health aides. Intervention/programs often lacked adequate description for replication and included individual and group formats, most commonly delievered in the participants homes. Outcomes usually included self-report measures of loneliness, social networks, or well-being, and intervention/programming was primarily educational, activity-based, or networking-based in nature. Conclusions: The intervention/programs reviewed yield important lessons to support innovation in developing friendship intervention/programs for older PWA as most yielded positive results and were acceptable to participants.IMPLICATIONS FOR REHABILITATION People with aphasia want their friendships addressed as part of their rehabilitation; however, the research literature has little guidance in this area. Studies reviewed of friendship intervention/programs for older adults yielded helpful lessons for consideration in developing this type of intervention/programming for people with aphasia. Interprofessional teams made up of rehabilitation professionals should address friendship for people with aphasia in both research and clinical practice.

Original languageEnglish
JournalDisability and Rehabilitation
StateAccepted/In press - 2022


  • Aphasia
  • friendship
  • intervention
  • older adults
  • social isolation


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