Background: The concept of community capital can be loosely defined as the collective norms, networks, and trust that underpin families, workplaces, neighbourhoods, religious organisations, and other forms of social community (Putnam, 1993; 2000). A "community" can be defined as a geographic location, family, ethnic or cultural group, religious affiliation, or other social association. Current evidence around the relationship between community capital and health and wellbeing is concentrated on hospital and community care contexts. Less is known about the impact of community capital on older people living in residential care settings.
Objectives: The overarching objective is to identify the salient themes around the relationship between residential care facilities for older people and communities in which they are located, and to develop a proposal for a substantive research project on this topic.
Methods: This scoping study entails three interrelated research activities. The first involves a focused review of recent literature around the relationship between community organisations and resources, older people, and residential care facilities. The second consists of holding semi-structured interviews with key informants including university researchers, representatives from voluntary and regulatory organisations and care home managers and owners. The third is to explore whether there are ongoing studies and existing datasets that would allow secondary analysis to investigate community capital in residential care.
Results: The literature outlined numerous ways in which community capital is defined and measured. There was broad consensus of a positive relationship between older people's (who live in community settings) access to community capital and their subjective wellbeing. A small number of studies suggested that social networks, both within and outside the care home, can positively impact the mental and functional health of older people living in care homes (Leedahl et al., 2015; Chipps and Jarvis, 2016). Moreover, individuals with memberships to several social groups demonstrated a tendency for joining new groups after moving to the care home, which in turn was significantly negatively related to depression (Ysseldyk et al, 2013).
Discussions with experts highlighted a generalised lack of meaningful relationships between older people living in residential care and their communities. Also explored were the barriers to community engagement with the care home sector more broadly and potential approaches to building community capital which is accessible both across different "home" settings and at all stages of the life course.
Conclusions: Societal views of ageing and institutionalised care, as well as practical and regulatory barriers to engaging with care home facilities, may contribute to a lack of interaction between older people living in residential homes and their wider communities. In addition, there is a paucity of evidence on the types of community capital that potentially impact the quality of care home services and the quality of life of older residents. As such, there is a need for further exploration of the role care homes play in their communities and of the quality of the relationships between older residents and their wider networks
Chipps, J. and Jarvis, M.A. (2016) Social capital and mental well-being of older people residing in a residential care facility in Durban, South Africa, Aging and Mental Health, 20(12): 1264-1270.
Leedahl, S.N.; Chapin, R.K. and Little, T.D. (2015) Multilevel examination of facility characteristics, social integration, and health for older adults living in nursing homes, Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 70(1): 111-122.
Putnam, R. (1993) Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Modern Italy. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ.
Putnam, R. (2000) Bowling Alone: The collapse and revival of American community. Simon and Schuster, New York, NY.
Ysseldyk, R., Haslam., S.A., and Haslam, C. (2013) Abide with me: religious group identification among older adults promotes health and well-being by maintaining multiple group memberships, Aging and Mental Health, 17(7): 869-879.