Peer Support: A Case Study of the Helping Hands Program
Older adulthood, social support and positive aging are richly researched topics as the population continues to age. However, research focusing specifically on peer support programs for older adults and how individuals give meaning to their experiences of giving and receiving support within these programs is lacking. Addressing these gaps in the literature is necessary to how community programs can help meet the growing needs of older adults in today’s society. This case study aimed to understand the meanings the study participants associated with their experiences within a community-based seniors helping seniors program. A constructivist case study design was used, employing document review, interviews and observations to gather the necessary data about The Helping Hands program. The Helping Hands program is a seniors helping seniors program in Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia, that mobilizes older adult volunteers to provide support to those older adults in the community who need additional support to remain in their homes. For the participants who received help, the program had great significance in their lives, and provided them with many positive impacts including enabling them to age in place, facilitated opportunities for companionship, and development of social networks within the community, and the physical help they need to make daily life easier and improved well-being. The volunteers who provided the support found that the program added to their lives in the enjoyment they experienced, the companionship aspect of help events and the fulfillment of helping someone in need. This program is an example of a peer support program that provides opportunities to contribute to the community as well as an avenue to access services within the community for those in need. Positive social networks, engagement and support for older adults living in the community are key aspects to aging positively, which are desirable to individuals.