Increasing prosocial behaviour in community-dwelling older adults through phone visiting programs: A systematic review

Nelson, Heather
Langman, Erin
Ziefflie, Beverlee
Page, Susan
Wingerak, Nicholas
Mayer, Paula
Hubbard Murdoch, Natasha
Fuchs-Lacelle, Shannon
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title

Older adults represent 17.5% of the Canadian population and experience high rates of loneliness and social isolation. Loneliness impacts quality of life, mental health, physical health, and mortality rates. There is a need to examine ways to reduce loneliness and social isolation. Phone visiting programs may provide partial solutions. Several organizations provide phone visiting programs for older adults yet little research has been done to evaluate the effectiveness of phone visiting on loneliness and /or mood or to study the optimal implementation of phone visiting programs. Objectives The objectives of this systematic review were to explore information pertaining to the optimal implementation of phone call programs for community-dwelling older adults and synthesize existing studies that examined the impact of phone visiting programs on mood and/or loneliness. Methods The systematic review was conducted in accordance with the JBI methodology for mixed methods systematic review. A peer reviewed search strategy was created by the librarian team member. Selection Criteria All original qualitative, quantitative, and mixed-methods published articles, theses, and dissertations were included in any language. Population- Older adults 60 years and over living in the community. Studies were excluded for those older adults in hospital or receiving 24-hour care. Intervention/Phenomenon of Interest- The particular research being addressed was one-on-one voice-only phone visiting programs for socialization. Outcomes- The research specifically addressed the experience of participating in a phone visiting program and/or loneliness, and/or mood. Study Selection After duplicate articles were removed each title and abstract was reviewed by two team members for inclusion/exclusion. All included articles at title and abstract screening were read in full by two team members to determine inclusion/exclusion. Results A total of 8741 records were found resulting in 11 articles being included after exclusion criteria were applied. Quantitative Meta-analysis Upon meta-analysis a statistically significant reduction in loneliness was found. Positive observed effects of phone programs on reducing depression were found. However, true effects were inconclusive. There were not enough studies that examined stress or anxiety to show any significant results. Qualitative Meta-Aggregation Three qualitative studies were found all showed positive findings which resulted in three themes:

  1. Makes You Feel Better, 2) Needing Connection (Knowing Someone is Out There, Need for Relationships), and 3) Beyond the Phone Call (Getting Over a Hurdle, Finding Meaning). Implications More research is needed to strengthen the findings of this systematic review. There is a need to expand phone visiting programs and create best practice documents and orientation packages to optimize existing phone visiting programs and establish new ones. Further, we need to establish an information sharing platform to connect researchers and leaders to put research into practice. Conclusion There is evidence to support the use of phone visiting programs to reduce loneliness, make older adults feel better and more connected, and this continues into other aspects of their lives. More research is needed to strengthen the findings.
Research Subject Categories::INTERDISCIPLINARY RESEARCH AREAS::Older people and ageing, Research Subject Categories::INTERDISCIPLINARY RESEARCH AREAS::Human communication, Research Subject Categories::INTERDISCIPLINARY RESEARCH AREAS::Caring sciences::Nursing