Comment

Forget research incentives and get to know older people instead

Recruitment for a study was fun once Lillian Jones stopped thinking about it

Recruitment for a study was fun once Lillian Jones stopped thinking about it

Last year, I visited some senior citizen centres in rural areas of the western United States to recruit older people at risk of developing depression, for a study on social interaction and mental well-being.

The long drives to and from the centres, the lack of interest in my study by some centre directors and the overall poor recruitment made me depressed. I began to wonder why I wanted to focus on rural community-dwelling older people.

Before the visits I researched and incorporated recruitment methods and strategies. I scheduled appointments for recruitment days in advance. I tried tempting potential volunteers with offers of gifts and raffle tickets for a gift card. I even decorated my recruitment booth.

Did all this

...

Recruitment for a study was fun once Lillian Jones stopped thinking about it

Last year, I visited some senior citizen centres in rural areas of the western United States to recruit older people at risk of developing depression, for a study on social interaction and mental well-being.


Games such as dominoes can improve mental well-being. Picture: iStock

The long drives to and from the centres, the lack of interest in my study by some centre directors and the overall poor recruitment made me depressed. I began to wonder why I wanted to focus on rural community-dwelling older people.

Before the visits I researched and incorporated recruitment methods and strategies. I scheduled appointments for recruitment days in advance. I tried tempting potential volunteers with offers of gifts and raffle tickets for a gift card. I even decorated my recruitment booth.

Did all this work? No. While the gifts brought in a few more volunteers, they did not substantially help improve recruitment numbers.

Rethink

After watching potential participants trying to sneak by me on several occasions, I decided I needed a new strategy.

I got to know the older people instead. I attended the activities that were held on my recruitment days: chair yoga, bingo, card and board games. It was fun. The experiences I had changed my view on the importance of senior citizen centres. These centres are a great service to communities, especially in rural areas where older people may live far from each other.

Activities help promote social interaction, which is so important to maintaining a healthy state of mind. Social isolation is dangerous. The more socially isolated a person is, the more depressed they become (Nicholson 2012). The more depressed, the more a person isolates (National Institute of Mental Health 2015). It’s a vicious cycle.

I made new friends, increased my social connections and became less concerned about the study I was doing. In a sense, the older people helped me more than I could possibly help them.

I recently finished the study. The results support the importance of social interaction for mental well-being.


References


About the author

Lillian Jones is a registered nurse at Idaho State University School of Nursing, Washoe Valley NV, United States

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