International Journal of Family Therapy

, Volume 6, Issue 2, pp 82–92 | Cite as

Support systems of elders in rural communities

  • David M. Todd
  • David Armstrong


The social network concept can be used to guide the extension of the mental health clinician's role to the practice of prevention on the local level. A model of such work is described which builds on clinical skills in collaborative consultation with formal and informal social support networks in a community. The model is illustrated and expanded through a case example of a project in a rural New England town to address issues of stress and support for frail elders. Focusing on the social network of such elders, consultations were developed to address the needs of middle generation caregivers, “natural helpers,” organized community associations, general community attitudes toward aging, and the ability of the community to secure and use outside resources. Issues of community entry through natural sponsorship are reviewed and the overall process of community empowerment is emphasized as a guiding principle in work with social networks.


Social Network Clinical Skill General Community Social Support Network Mental Health Clinician 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Butler, R., & Lewis, M.Aging and mental health (2nd ed.). St. Louis: C. V. Mosby Co., 1977.Google Scholar
  2. Collins, A. H., & Pancoast, D. L.Natural helping networks: A strategy for prevention. New York: National Association of Social Workers, 1976.Google Scholar
  3. Collins, R. T. Planning community services for the rural elderly: Implications from research.The Gerontologist, 1979,19, 275–282.Google Scholar
  4. Gottlieb, B. (Ed.)Social networks and social support. Beverly Hills: Sage, 1981.Google Scholar
  5. Gottlieb, B. H., & Todd, D. M. Characterizing and promoting social support in natural settings. In R. F. Munoz, L. R. Snowden, J. G. Kelly and Associates,Social and psychological research in community settings. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1979.Google Scholar
  6. Henry, J. The personal community and its invariant properties.American Anthropologist, 1958,60, 827–831.Google Scholar
  7. Lowenthal, M. F., & Robinson, B. Social networks and isolation. In R. H. Binstock & E. Shanas (Eds.),Handbook of aging and the social sciences New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Co., 1976.Google Scholar
  8. Mitchell, R. E., & Trickett, E. J. Social networks as mediators of social support: An analysis of the effects and determinants of social networks.Community Mental Health Journal, 1980,61, 27–44.Google Scholar
  9. Shanas, E. The family as social support system in old age.The Gerontologist, 1979,19, 69–74.Google Scholar
  10. Warren, R. B., & Warren, D. I.The neighborhood organizer's handbook. Notre Dame, In: University of Notre Dame Press, 1977.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Human Sciences Press 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • David M. Todd
    • 1
  • David Armstrong
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Massachusetts at Amherst

Personalised recommendations