Community Blog

Senior Social Groups Slow Mental Decline

By Debbie Humphrey

Summertime is a “sunsational” time to gather with friends and family for picnics, cookouts, family reunions, weddings and more! Everyone has a great time socializing, laughing, and catching up on the lives of others. Social interaction is an important factor in our quality of life, but it can have an even greater effect on aging adults and mental decline.

I am always interested when research studies are published by scholars at Ohio State University, because I take great pride in my home state and the mighty Buckeyes! Recent research suggests the social interaction of seniors can have a direct impact on their brain health, loss of memory and cognitive function, which are all symptoms of brain diseases and disorders, like dementia.

As Elizabeth Kirby, assistant professor of behavioral neuroscience at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and lead author of the study writes, “The findings influence a body of research in humans and animals that supports the role of social connections in preserving the mind and improving quality of life.’”

US News and World Report published a study from the journal Frontier of Aging Neuroscience, in which Ohio State medical researchers reported their observations of mice ages 15-18 months-old, an age range when the memory significantly declines. These mice were separated into pairs or groups of seven. Over a course of three months with tests performed daily, the researchers noted that coupled mice did not fare as well in the experiments as the mice housed in groups.

"We found that mice housed in groups remembered objects better," Kirby said. Regarding this one segment of the experiment, she continued, “A parallel in humans is trying to remember where you parked your car," Kirby says. "If you have some memory of where it is, it's much more efficient to navigate directly to your car."

The hippocampus in humans and animals is made up of gray matter and it is responsible for forming, storing and processing memories in the brain. Unfortunately, it declines with age regardless of overall health.

“Social ties are recommended to preserve memory in this region of the brain in humans,” Kirby says. The research found no differences in neuron growth in the hippocampus between the two groups, but they did discover “increased inflammation in the brain tissue of coupled mice, which is evidence of declined cognitive health.”

According to Joseph B. Orange, a professor of communication sciences and disorders at Western University in Ontario, Canada, “People who are isolated with limited social contact tend to have higher levels of depression, a higher use of medications for treating psychosis and more overall hospitalizations, which means the results of this study, though helpful, are not surprising.”

Orange believes this study is a small window to the larger picture of social exclusion and isolation and how it affects cognition, communication and quality of life.

A compassionate caregiver provides companionship to seniors who live alone or feel isolated. Transportation assistance is available for those able and willing to get out of the house and venture out to senior citizen activity centers or other social events that pique their interest. It would be my pleasure to sit down in a FREE consultation with you and your loved one at your convenience to discuss the many ways Home Helpers® can help.

Home Helpers® is honored to have received the Provider of Choice 2017 & 2018 awards from Home Care Pulse, and we proudly serve male and female seniors in Clearwater, Dunedin, Palm Harbor, Safety Harbor, Tarpon Springs, Holiday, New Port Richey, Trinity, Port Richey, Hudson and surrounding areas. Home Helpers®…Making Life Easier℠  727.942.2539

Sources: US News and World Report