For those seniors who spend a career helping – and healing – others, retirement can be frustrating. Retired psychiatrists, for instance, may miss the daily interaction with patients and the satisfaction of assisting people toward progress. At the same time, other seniors may feel their lives have become aimless as they age.
The ideal solution is to combine these peers into an interactive program that benefits both. Various programs around the world have proven that peer counselling amongst seniors provides unprecedented benefits. Seniors who live alone often do not have regular, honest and interesting communication, especially when physically or mentally compromised. Peer counselling provides a range of advantages that improves quality of life!
What is a peer counselor?
Peer counselors are older adults or retired people with certain skills who assist people similar to their age work through challenges, providing support in a formal or informal manner. Peer counselors are usually required to engage in training or coaching, and are accredited as such, which means they’ll have the knowledge and empathy to psychologically assist peers.
Peer counseling may take the form of psychological and mental conditions, but also engages seniors in other interesting topics – such as gardening, exercise, diet, cooking, mobility, interaction with family, starting a new business, art, book clubs and other lifestyle issues – which are addressed by peers in various fields of expertise.
Topics may include dealing with facing the death of a spouse or isolation from friends and family. Regular contact with someone of similar age experiencing similar challenges and values is highly effective to help work through feelings and explore viable life decisions. These interventions demonstrate a high rate of success in improving senior well-being,
The origins of peer counseling
Peer counseling has been informally used for centuries, usually conducted in person by peers or family through traditional means. Its modern significance, however, became particularly obvious during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Seniors became mentally affected as they were isolated from friends and family, and communication by telephone, email and video increased exponentially.
Various virtual peer counseling groups were set up by seniors for seniors (and caregivers), covering topics such as depression, health awareness, exercise, therapy, diet, medication and other subjects. The use of these support groups has shown significant positive outcomes, including an increase in physical activity, reduction of loneliness, and improved management of chronic illness. The practice also has a positive effect on social interaction and personal well-being.
Peer-support models in many countries are now considered a crucial part of senior health care to promote healthy aging in all seniors.
How to benefit from peer counseling
Many peer counselling groups online, and various websites offer free video sessions or online interactive sessions that provide communication and active engagement with psychological issues. The most prominent forms of peer counselling increase engagement with individuals, groups and activities. Sites such as televeda provide tremendous assistance in this regard.
How to become a peer counselor
Training to become a peer counselor is provided by many programs, online or in person, where peers will learn how to treat isolation, depression, and various mental and physical conditions, and provide regular communication and feedback to improve the quality of life of seniors. Therapy usually takes the form of group sessions or one-on-one online communication.
Effectiveness of virtual peer counseling
Online platforms allow seniors to engage in activities and communication they would not usually experience in everyday life, especially if they’re physically limited. These programs engage seniors by teaching them new skills and an overall involvement with a community they would not experience physically.
Often engaging and fun, peer communication centers have proven to be a lifeline to many seniors who are finding themselves in challenging times.