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

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Objective: 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.

Method: 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.

Results: 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.

Conclusion: 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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Keywords: depression; gender; quality of life; social identity; social support

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Psychology, University of Surrey, Guildford, UK 2: School of Psychology, University of Exeter, Exeter, UK 3: Cornwall Care, Truro, UK

Publication date: May 1, 2011

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