No country for old men? The role of a Gentlemen's Club in promoting social engagement and psychological well-being in residential care

Department of Psychology, University of Surrey, Guildford, UK.
Aging and Mental Health (Impact Factor: 1.75). 05/2011; 15(4):456-66. DOI: 10.1080/13607863.2010.536137
Source: PubMed


Social isolation is a common problem in older people who move into care that has negative consequences for well-being. This is of particular concern for men, who are marginalised in long-term care settings as a result of their reduced numbers and greater difficulty in accessing effective social support, relative to women. However, researchers in the social identity tradition argue that developing social group memberships can counteract the effects of isolation. We test this account in this study by examining whether increased socialisation with others of the same gender enhances social identification, well-being (e.g. life satisfaction, mood), and cognitive ability.
Care home residents were invited to join gender-based groups (i.e. Ladies and Gentlemen's Clubs). Nine groups were examined (five male groups, four female groups) comprising 26 participants (12 male, 14 female), who took part in fortnightly social activities. Social identification, personal identity strength, cognitive ability and well-being were measured at the commencement of the intervention and 12 weeks later.
A clear gender effect was found. For women, there was evidence of maintained well-being and identification over time. For men, there was a significant reduction in depression and anxiety, and an increased sense of social identification with others.
While decreasing well-being tends to be the norm in long-term residential care, building new social group memberships in the form of gender clubs can counteract this decline, particularly among men.

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Available from: Ilka Helene Gleibs
    • "Indeed, the expectation of such support [21] can make people feel better able to deal with stressful situations and thereby improve their well-being. Thus, group membership can improve both mental and physical well-being in stressful situations [22, 23], can improve the functioning of the elderly [24], protect against depression [25], and help protect self-esteem amongst young people negotiating barriers to individual development [26]. In our own research we have extended this work in two ways. "
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    • "In addition, there is a growing evidence that group membership can promote adjustment, coping, and well-being in vulnerable populations (Jetten et al., 2014). This research has found that social identities and group membership can improve well-being and slow down cognitive decline in older adults (Gleibs et al., 2011; Haslam et al., 2014), reduce symptoms and recidivism of depression (Cruwys et al., 2013; Cruwys, Haslam, Dingle, Jetten et al., 2014), and increase wellbeing in people with chronic mental health and substance abuse problems (Best et al., 2014; Dingle, Brander, Ballantyne, & Baker, 2013; Dingle, Stark, Cruwys, & Best, 2015). If groups are a psychological resource, it follows that belonging to many social groups will lead individuals to have multiple sources of psychological support to fall back on (Brook et al., 2008; Cruwys et al., 2013; Haslam et al., 2008; Iyer et al., 2009). "
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    • "The present findings are therefore consistent with previous claims that groupbased activities are an important vehicle for delivering meaningful and engaging opportunities for older adults – particularly with regard to maintaining well-being and counteracting negative experiences (Gleibs et al., 2011b). "
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