A group of researchers at Penn State University explored the benefits of socializing for elderly people, especially its impact on brain health and cognitive functioning. The study is published in PLOS ONE.
The researchers surveyed data collected from in-person interactions and digital interactions by smartphones, over 16 days, of 312 adults aged between 70–90 years. They were also prompted five times throughout the day to report about the number of social interactions, the people they interacted with, and the experiences garnered in the process of interacting. Three mobile cognition tests for older adults were also performed to measure their processing speed and attention, spatial working memory, and intra-item feature memory binding.
According to the results, the mental health benefits of socializing in older adults manifested in a boost in cognition, even in a short span of time. Participants who had certain types of social contact showed better cognitive performance than their peers who lacked any type of social contact.
The findings of this study have special relevance in the post-COVID-19 era because the social distancing mitigation measures throughout the pandemic have led to skyrocketing cases of loneliness-related cognitive decline and memory disorders like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease (AD).
The researchers are enthusiastic that this study can help create future socializing interventions that improve mental health and cognitive function in older adults and prevent the clinical onset of severe memory disorders.
The lead researcher, Ruixue Zhaoyang, elaborated, “Older adults who are relatively more deprived in certain social interaction experiences could potentially benefit the most from interventions that help to ‘boost’ their usual levels of social interactions in daily life.”
To Know More You May Refer To
Zhaoyang, R., Scott, S. B., Martire, L. M., & Sliwinski, M. J. (2021). Daily social interactions related to daily performance on mobile cognitive tests among older adults. PloS one, 16(8), e0256583. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0256583