There is convincing evidence that nursing home residents who have more visitors fare better than those who have fewer visitors. However, as many as one third of all individuals living in nursing homes have virtually no visitors. The purpose of this study was to address this concern by examining telephone use in older adults living in nursing homes, and evaluating the potential of telephone communications as a means of social support for this at-risk group. Using a recording device activated each time the receiver was picked up, the research team "listened in" on the telephone conversations of three nursing home residents (aged 76, 79, and 92) for a period of 1 week. The transcripts revealed 56 minutes of actual conversation during the week (10, 21, and 25 minutes, respectively), most often with family or longtime friends living out of town. Each resident laughed aloud more than once per minute. The telephone conversations provided the residents with vivid glimpses of life outside the walls of their facility and appeared to help them stay connected with their family and friends. The findings support further study of the telephone as a way to sustain authentic social support in long-term care populations.
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