Providing a scientific base for the Belgian Red Cross’ “Friendly visiting program”


CEBaP gathers scientific evidence to support all the humanitarian aid activities of the Belgian Red Cross, including its social activities. The “Friendly visiting program” was designed to tackle feelings of loneliness and social isolation among older adults. By paying regular visits and supplying need-adapted library materials to isolated older adults, the Belgian Red Cross volunteers aim to combat the loneliness epidemic. To assist the volunteers supporting this activity, an evidence-based guideline is currently developed.

Recently, CEBaP performed two evidence reviews. The first one investigated the effect of friendly (home) visiting by a volunteer on the loneliness, social isolation, (symptoms of) depression, life satisfaction and mental health of older adults. The second one looked at the effect of book reading on physical and mental health in older adults.

On Thursday April 19, this evidence base was presented to and discussed by a multidisciplinary expert panel. The panel consisted of Flemish academic and practice social care experts (including Vonk3 @Thomas More University, the Flanders Centre of Expertise on Dementia, the Flemish interface centre for cultural heritage, residential care centres and the Christian health insurance fund), as well as Belgian Red Cross’ volunteers who support this activity in several local chapters.

Based on the input of the expert panel, the Social Care Department of the Belgian Red Cross can now further shape its activity. As of May 2018, several pilot studies will be performed to evaluate the “Friendly visiting program” in its current form and to further adapt this to the preferences of the volunteers and the older adults.

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