Date of Award


Document Type



Edith Cowan University

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts Honours


Faculty of Health and Human Sciences

First Supervisor

Dr Mark Groves


There is conclusive evidence which highlights the importance of physical and mental health in the ability of elderly persons to function within society, and elderly persons who require services to maintain their independence, are assumed to have lower levels of functioning than persons who do not apply for, or require assistance. Individuals, however, are rarely totally independent, as most people are involved in social networks, where the reciprocal exchange of money, emotional support, goods and services are exchanged with friends family and neighbours. This study, examined the role of social support networks in the independent functioning of the elderly, in relation to an integrated model of independence and interdependence (controlling for age, physical health, mental health and gender). Participants consisted of 104 elderly persons 65 years of age and over, drawn from one of the following situations; those who have applied for home and community care services, but have not yet received them (Marginalised); and those who have not received or applied for any home and community care services (Assimilated). A comparison of the two groups, found that persons in the marginalised group were significantly different to the assimilated group on levels of social support. These findings indicate that the frequency and intensity of contact with network members, plays an important role in maintaining functioning in elderly persons. Results provide preliminary support for the integrated model of the relationship of independence to interdependence. It is concluded that formal services should therefore, direct their services towards the establishment and maintenance of informal networks to alleviate the demand for formal support.