To meet, to matter, and to have fun: The development, implementation, and evaluation of an intervention to fulfil the social needs of older people

T. ten Bruggencate*, K.G. Luijkx, J. Sturm

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Interventions for older people are often not evaluated and, if evaluated, are not proven successful. Based on a systematic literature review and two qualitative studies about the social needs of older people, an intervention has been developed, implemented, and evaluated. Important social needs that emerged from these studies are connectedness, meaningfulness, and independence. Samsam, the developed intervention, aims to fulfil these needs. Samsam is a place where older (native Dutch speaking) people teach the Dutch language to expats, refugees, and immigrants. Two group interviews and one interview with a total of seven older participants were held to find out what the experiences are with this intervention to fulfil the social needs of older people. After analysis, three themes emerged: (1) The general experience of Samsam, (2) connectedness, and (3) meaningfulness and status. Results indicate that the volunteers are content with the conditions of the intervention, although it is sometimes hard work. The older participants indicated that helping other people and contributing to society is important for them. The intervention also has a strong social and fun element which contributes to their feeling of connectedness. The intervention fulfils various social needs, such as connectedness, meaningfulness, and status. When participating in Samsam, participants feel connected to each other, to the students, and to society. The older participants want to have meaningful lives and use their skills and talents. Samsam offers possibilities for them to do so. We further found that participants have some common characteristics such as an openness to others and to other cultures. An openness towards others and to society helps older people to connect. Most interventions focus on stimulating contact between older people, primarily on their need for affection. We conclude that meaningfulness and status are important social needs. Successful interventions for older people should focus more on fulfilling these needs—for example, by engaging in purposeful activities. It becomes easier to connect when a person feels useful.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2307
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number13
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • interventions
  • older adults
  • social needs
  • volunteer work


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