Exploring the suitability and acceptability of peer support for older veterans

Karen Burnell, Adrian Needs, Kim Gordon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Purpose - Informal social support is often sought by veterans to support reminiscence or cope with traumatic memories. However, it can also encourage unhelpful ways of coping, such as avoidance, or may be absent altogether. This project borrowed from the growing peer support literature to explore the suitability of peer support services to enhance wellbeing for older veterans, when naturally occurring support is absent or unhelpful.

Methodological approach
- This was a sequentially staged research programme involving a scoping review of current practice and evidence, and a consultation with veterans. In total, 10 veterans (nine male, 1 female) took part in the consultation (M = 66 years).

Findings - Peer support was considered a suitable, particularly in addressing loneliness and social isolation. There was an understandable concern regarding its use with more complex issues such as trauma. An added issue was the implicit assumption that this consultation concerned transition; supporting younger veteran as they move from military to civilian life. This mirrored the focus of current UK policy and affected the focus of the consultation. Issues were also raised around sustainability of services more broadly.

Social implications - Peer support is appropriate in supporting older veterans, but must be implemented in a sustainable way. Raising awareness of the needs of older veterans in older adult services is an important implication for service development and delivery.

Originality - There is a considerable lack of research concerning older veterans, particularly concerning their formal and informal social support needs. This paper addresses the current gap in the literature.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)120-130
Number of pages10
JournalQuality in Ageing and Older Adults
Issue number2
Early online date20 Apr 2017
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2017


  • veterans
  • older adults
  • peer support
  • social support
  • befriending
  • loneliness
  • social interventions


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