Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Social Activity and Health Benefits

Research continues to show that social activity has a positive benefit on health and well-being, and studies show that more socially active older adults have better cognitive outcomes and are less vulnerable to progressive decline. For example, a study shows that over a five-year period, individuals with the largest social networks had 39% less cognitive decline and half the memory decline compared to people with the lowest social interaction. Social activity can take many forms, from one-on-one conversations to group activities. The recent study explored which types of social activity might have the greatest cognitive benefit for older adults. The researchers addressed this question by looking at the responses of 3,413 participants. These individuals were 50 or older at the start of the study, with an average age of 63. The researchers looked at the following factors regarding participants’ social relationships: o The number of close relationships o Relationship quality o Frequency of contact o Loneliness o The number of group memberships o Community activities (such as hobbies, going on day trips, etc.) o Participation in cultural activities Researchers then analyzed the relationship between the various aspects of social activities and found that they clustered into two main types. The first being group engagement (including participation in social activities, community activities, and number of group memberships). The second type is individual engagement (including relationship quality, frequency of contact, and number of close relationships). Loneliness did not fit into either grouping. The group and individual engagement scores were compared against performance on cognitive tests. The main finding of the analysis is that group engagement best predicted cognitive performance four years later. When changes in group and individual engagement during the first two years were taken into account, the association was stronger for group engagement. The researchers also looked at how the relationship might change at different ages and found that group engagement was significantly associated with better cognitive performance for older participants compared to the benefit it provided younger participants. The researchers also studied participants with above average scores on group participation compared to the average scores. Here, they found that if a person had above average group engagement, this person cognitively functioned at the average level of a 45 year old. The impact of group engagement for an above average 80 year old was even more dramatic – with cognitive performance at the level of a person age 70.5. The reasons for this greater impact of group engagement remain unclear and warrants future study. Some of the possibilities suggested for this include group relationships requiring more effort to maintain, or that group activities entail more intense participation, or group engagement may also reflect these individuals having greater social support. Research suggests that, although individual engagement does provide benefits as well, group engagement may offer unique cognitive benefits to older adults, and that this impact increases as people grow older. As the researchers note, “It would appear that there is particular value in directing investment towards helping older adults develop and maintain social group engagement.” Beyond cognitive performance, other studies have also suggested that quality of life has additional pay-offs in terms of well-being, and mental and physical health. As the authors of the research study conclude, “Consider what one would have to pay for the yet-to-be-invented drug with the potential to reduce the cognitive age of an 80 year old by nearly a decade.” Do you know somebody that would benefit from social engagement? The Dale Association is a unique non-profit organization which has been responding to needs of adults in our Niagara community for 64 years.

Intergenerational Spring Fling

Melt away the monotony of winter this spring break with “Spring Fling” an intergenerational program that is sure to make this years’ spring break memorable. Some will use the week-long vacation to travel, some will use it to relax and recharge, and some will rely on their parents to baby-sit while they work their normal schedule. “Spring Fling” has been scheduled for the week children are off school locally. On April 2nd from 10:00 am – 2:00pm, kids and adults can both enjoy fun crafts, games, and food. Grandparents (or parents) are encouraged to register for this intergenerational activity that will include coloring Easter eggs, games and activities, a pizza party, and fun for both the ages. The program is designed for school aged children of all ages and their grandparents or parents. It promises to be fun for everyone involved. Make the best of spring break and treat your child or grandchild to a fun and enriching day that will create a memorable experience he or she will remember for a lifetime. Intergenerational programs bring together children and older adults, offering them opportunities to interact and create ongoing, beneficial relationships and positive dividends in kids’ and seniors’ lives. Call 433-1886 and talk to Sherry for more details about these intergenerational programs.