Who Do I Call? Contact Persons and Network Configurations of the Elderly in Switzerland

Manuela Schicka, University of Applied Sciences Northwestern Switzerland, School of Social Work

Research showed already that social networks are of great importance for well-being and to avoid loneliness. It is also known that the network size decreases with higher ages and that this can lead to a lack of possible support. However, not only the network size is important, but also who is part of the network of individuals. Therefore, this study examines the composition of contact persons of elderly people in Switzerland. Data used in this research comes from a survey on social relationships of ageing persons that was conducted in four cantons in the German speaking part of Switzerland. About 1,200 persons from the age of 50 participated in this study. A paper-pencil questionnaire was sent to the randomly chosen persons. In one question the participants were asked to name those persons with whom they were in contact the past four weeks. The results show that there are differences in the number of contact persons among men and women, but also among different age groups. Furthermore, nine different profiles of contact persons could have been identified using cluster analyses. Whereas some focus more on family members, others are more in contact with friends. Configurations with low number of contacts were also found. This research shows that there exists a heterogeneity of network compositions among elderly, and that most people have many possible contacts available.

Presented in Poster Session 1