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The Impact of Befriending on Younger and Older Adults: An Intergenerational Project

   Faculty of Management, Law and Social Sciences

  Dr Ria Vaportzis  Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Intergenerational projects, bringing together younger and older adults, are increasingly common. Despite that, there is little research on friendship between different generations (O'Dare, Timonen, & Conlon, 2019). In addition, the limited research on intergenerational friendship focuses on younger adults offering befriending to older adults; therefore, there is an imbalance in the relationship with the younger person seen as the provider and the older person seen as the receiver. Older adults over 65 years are vulnerable to loneliness and social isolation, and so are younger adults between 18-24 (Pyle & Evans, 2018). Young adults leaving home for university, for example, often experience loneliness and/or social isolation similar to that perceived by older adults. Phone befriending and pen pal correspondence offers a low cost, low risk solution to reducing loneliness and social isolation in multiple age demographics, and has become even more popular during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This project will generate new knowledge and build an evidence base on the potential effectiveness and impact of phone befriending and pen pal correspondence on younger (18-24) and older adults (+65).

The primary objective is to determine whether loneliness and social isolation at 8 weeks after the intervention will improve in participants allocated to receive a phone befriending or pen pal correspondence intervention as compared to those in the waiting list control group. The outcomes will inform design of services and support systems, provide data that will enable support for younger and older people who feel lonely and/or socially isolated, and lay the foundations for larger future intervention studies.

Funding Notes

This is a self-funded PhD project; applicants will be expected to pay their own fees or have a suitable source of third-party funding. UK applicants may be able to apply for a Doctoral Loan from Student Finance. Part-time study may be possible.


O'Dare, C. E., Timonen, V., & Conlon, C. (2019). Intergenerational friendships of older adults: why do we know so little about them? Ageing & Society, 39(1), 1-16.
Pyle, E., & Evans, D. (2018). Loneliness-what characteristics and circumstances are associated with feeling lonely. Newport: Office for National Statistics.

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