Impact of the Tellegacy Program and Sonoma County’s National Council On Aging on Loneliness and Well Being of Older Adults with Meals On Wheels
An exploratory mixed-methods study was conducted by Meals on Wheels (MOW) and A to the Power of Z Research Team (Research Team) aimed at assessing the impact of the Tellegacy program on loneliness and social isolation and wellbeing of older adults. The Tellegacy program combines meal delivery with structured social interactions, which are facilitated through an 11-module instructional program for volunteers. The study employed a pre- and post-intervention design, using the UCLA Loneliness Scale and Satisfaction with Life Scale for data collection. Preliminary findings indicate a positive trend in mental well-being and loneliness among participants. Participants expressed high levels of satisfaction with the program, citing the meaningfulness of interactions and the opportunity for intergenerational engagement. These findings suggest that community-based interventions combining nutritional support with structured social interactions can be beneficial for the mental health and social well-being of older adults.
As the global population ages, there is a growing concern regarding the challenges faced by older adults, particularly social isolation and loneliness. These issues are strongly associated with adverse mental health outcomes including depression, cognitive decline, and increased mortality risk (Holt-Lunstad et al., 2015). In light of these challenges, there is an imperative to develop and assess interventions aimed at mitigating social isolation and improving mental well-being among older adults. One such intervention is the Tellegacy program, developed by Dr. Jeremy Holloway, which uniquely structured flexible and intentional social interactions.
This study sought to assess the impact of the Tellegacy program on loneliness and mental health among a sample of older adults. With the integration of structured social interactions into meal delivery services, this program offers a multifaceted approach to address the psychosocial needs of older adults.
Preliminary findings from this pilot study indicate a positive impact on participants’ mental health and levels of loneliness. Participants reported high satisfaction levels, which were attributed to the quality of interactions with volunteers and the opportunity for self-reflection and intergenerational engagement.
This study aims to contribute to the growing body of research focused on interventions for older adults, by providing preliminary evidence on the benefits of combining nutritional support with structured social interactions. Results warrant further investigation with larger samples to evaluate the generalizability and long-term impacts of such interventions.
MOW and Research Team collaborated for the recruitment of older adult participants and volunteers. Seven older adult participants were initially recruited through traditional outreach methods. Additionally, seven volunteers were enlisted and underwent comprehensive training via Tellegacy’s 11-module instructional program. All volunteers provided informed consent and were equipped with a Sessions Guide containing dialogic prompts for structured interactive sessions.
The older adult participants were screened for suitability, openness to social interaction, and the absence of contraindicative behaviors. Each participant was paired with a volunteer, and the program began with an informal “meet and greet” session, followed by four weekly structured interaction sessions guided by the Tellegacy protocol.
Data collection was achieved through telephone surveys, administered by the MOW coordinator, using a pre- and post-intervention design. The pre-intervention survey was conducted before the first Tellegacy session, and the post-intervention survey was administered shortly after the fourth session. The surveys included standardized questions using the UCLA Loneliness Scale and Satisfaction with Life Scale for participants. The post-intervention survey additionally incorporated customized satisfaction and diagnostic questions to evaluate the program.
Of the seven initial participants, six completed the program and both surveys within the 4-week timeframe, and their data were analyzed for this study.
The Program was conducted through the collaboration of Meals on Wheels (MOW) and Research Team had a pilot sample size of 6 older adults and 6 volunteers who completed the program within the stipulated 4-week window. The “pre” and “post” surveys were administered through telephone calls by the MOW coordinator and were designed to evaluate the changes in loneliness and mental well-being among the participants.
Loneliness and Isolation Scores:
One of the primary objectives of the Tellegacy program was to assess its impact on loneliness and social isolation among older adults. The UCLA Loneliness Scale was utilized to measure these attributes. A higher score on this scale indicates greater levels of loneliness and social isolation.
The mean pre-intervention score was 22.667 with a standard deviation of 5.501, suggesting relatively high levels of loneliness and social isolation among the participants at the beginning of the program. However, after the implementation of the Tellegacy program, there was a notable decrease in the mean score to 18.833 with a standard deviation of 3.71035. This indicates a positive decrease in the levels of loneliness and social isolation among the participants.
A two-tailed t-test was used to determine if the change in loneliness and isolation scores were statistically significant. The t-value was 3.781 with a significance level of 0.013. Since the p-value is less than 0.05, this suggests that the reduction in loneliness and isolation scores is statistically significant.
Satisfaction with Life Scores:
The Satisfaction with Life Scale was used to assess the mental well-being and life satisfaction of the participants. A higher score on this scale implies a higher level of life satisfaction.
The mean pre-intervention score was 19.33, which increased to 22.2 post-intervention. This demonstrates a positive change in the life satisfaction of the participants after their involvement in the Tellegacy program.
A two-tailed t-test revealed a t-value of 1.000 with a significance level of 0.363. Since the p-value is greater than 0.05, the change in life satisfaction is not statistically significant at the 95% confidence level; however, participants appeared to self-report positively to their satisfaction with Tellegacy.
Direct Measures – Satisfaction with Tellegacy:
Additionally, participants were asked about their satisfaction with the Tellegacy program. Out of the six participants, five reported being very satisfied, and one reported being somewhat satisfied. The reasons for their satisfaction included positive reflections on life, personality-driven experiences, comfort in conversations, the novelty of questions prompting new thoughts, intergenerational engagement, and appreciation for the volunteers.
In summary, the Tellegacy program has demonstrated a statistically significant reduction in loneliness and social isolation among older adults. Participants’ feedback highlights the value they derived from the program, particularly in terms of social engagement and reflection on life.
The impact of the Tellegacy program on participants’ mental health and loneliness forms the focus of this exploratory study. The initiative is uniquely designed to not only provide necessary nutritional support to older adults but also to foster structured social interactions. These two elements have been identified as crucial determinants of mental health and well-being among older adults (Czaja et al., 2018).
Following the assessment period, participants are given the choice to continue their engagement with the Tellegacy program, underscoring the program’s flexible and participant-centered approach. This voluntary extension of the program provides additional opportunities to investigate the longitudinal impact of the intervention on loneliness and mental health outcomes.
The results of this pilot study indicate a positive impact of the Tellegacy program on loneliness and mental well-being among older adults. The Satisfaction with Life Scale revealed positive changes in perceptions for 6 Cattributes among the participants. Although these changes were not statistically significant, possibly due to the pilot sample size, they signify a trend that warrants further investigation.
Notably, participants expressed high levels of satisfaction with the Tellegacy program. Their feedback highlighted several important aspects, including the value of structured social interactions and the importance of intergenerational engagement. Participants appreciated the opportunity to reflect on their lives, engage in new conversations, and build relationships with younger volunteers. These observations are consistent with research indicating that social engagement and intergenerational relationships can have a profound impact on the mental health of older adults (Newman & Smith, 1997).
One participant mentioned that the program made her think about life in a new way, adding depth and positivity. This reflects the cognitive stimulation aspect of the Tellegacy program, which can be an important factor in reducing cognitive decline and enhancing life satisfaction (Czaja et al., 2018).
Intergenerational engagement was another element that participants found highly valuable. One participant expressed delight in interacting with someone the age of her grandchildren, which not only fostered emotional connectivity but also challenges potential stereotypes and biases, contributing to a reduction in ageism. This is particularly significant, as research suggests that positive intergenerational interactions can play a vital role in challenging age-related stereotypes and fostering mutual understanding (Allan & Johnson, 2009).
Moreover, the perspectives of the volunteers involved in the Tellegacy program should be considered. Understanding their experiences and the impact on their perceptions of aging can add a valuable dimension to the evaluation of the program’s overall efficacy.
The findings from this pilot study provide preliminary evidence that community-based interventions combining meal delivery with structured social interactions can have a positive impact on the mental health and social well-being of older adults. The Tellegacy program exemplifies an innovative approach to tackling the multifaceted issues of loneliness and mental health among an aging population, highlighting the importance of social engagement and community support.
This pilot study provides preliminary evidence supporting the positive impact of the Tellegacy program on loneliness and mental well-being among older adults. Combining meal delivery with structured social interactions, the program offers a multifaceted approach to address social isolation in the aging population. The findings from this study warrant further investigation with a larger sample size to substantiate these outcomes. Moreover, the program can potentially serve as a model for other community-based interventions aimed at fostering mental health and reducing social isolation among older adults.
Keywords: Loneliness, Mental Health, Gerontology, Meals on Wheels, Tellegacy Program.
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