The 2023 University of Michigan National Poll on Healthy Aging (NPHA) reported that 34% of older adults in the U.S. have felt socially isolated in the past year, and 37% felt a lack of companionship. ¹

Social connections can open the doors to improved self-confidence, elevated mood, and an increased sense of purpose for seniors in retirement. However, a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia can significantly affect a person’s ability to stay socially engaged.

According to Alzheimer’s Society, someone with dementia might socially withdraw if they’re finding their usual activities more difficult. For example, they may feel discouraged if they’re regularly losing track of conversations, struggling to get to social events, or finding busy social settings overstimulating. 

What Does the Research Say About Socialization and Dementia?

Presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC), the Wellbeing and Health for People with Dementia (WHELD) program research found that just ten minutes of social interaction per day can improve the wellbeing of people in senior care homes with dementia.[2]This is far from an isolated finding in dementia research. For example, another study found that increased social interaction could minimize isolation, stress, and loneliness in seniors with Alzheimer’s while increasing feelings of self-worth (Ruthirakuhan et al., 2012). [3]

However, the benefits of socialization for seniors with Alzheimer’s may go even further than reducing loneliness and supporting mental health. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, staying socially active may even be able to support brain health. [4] A review by Piolatto et al. (2022) [5] supported this, finding that poor social relationships were predictive of cognitive decline. While this link was only correlational, and some methodological issues were highlighted, further research into the association between social interaction and cognitive health is certainly warranted.

In summary, the potential benefits of socializing for seniors with dementia include:

    • Supporting brain health and slowing cognitive decline.
    • Stress relief.
    • Boosting self-worth.
    • Reducing loneliness.
    • Improving sleep quality.
    • Reducing depression and anxiety.
    • Helping seniors communicate their needs.

How Can You Help a Senior with Dementia Socialize?

If you’ve noticed your loved one with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia becoming increasingly withdrawn, there are a few things you can try to get them socially engaged.

    • Find social communities for seniors with dementia. Are there any designated social or support groups for seniors with dementia in their local community? Connecting with others who understand their feelings could be valuable, especially if they’re in the early stages of their disease and still coming to terms with a new diagnosis.
    • Educate their friends and family members. Every person with dementia is unique. When friends and family members visit, let them know how to best connect with your loved one beforehand. This can result in more positive social interactions for everyone involved. For example, suppose your relative with dementia struggles to express themselves. In that case, ask visitors to offer subtle non-verbal encouragement while allowing them ample time to respond to questions.
    • Work visits around their needs. Many seniors in the middle to late stages of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia experience confusion or agitation in the evening (often referred to as sundowning). This might mean it’s easier for them to engage socially during the day. Equally, they may become overstimulated by loud, busy environments and unable to express themselves adequately in these settings. Think about the best time and place for your loved one to get the most out of their social interactions. 
    • Reminisce, listen to music, or play games. When people have memory loss due to Alzheimer’s or dementia, they may still remember their favorite songs and board games or enjoy looking through old photo albums and memorabilia. Not only are these activities great conversation starters, but they’re also mentally stimulating, which may help support cognitive health.

Socialization At Alpine View Lodge Assisted Living

As San Diego County’s memory care leader, we understand the critical role of socialization in improving the quality of life of seniors with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Our individualized activities of daily living (ADL) support empower memory care and assist living residents in living a lifestyle of their choice, socializing in a way that suits their personality. 

Alpine View Lodge hosts an impressive range of engaging group activities that gently promote socialization among memory care residents. Many of these can be enjoyed outdoors, overlooking the picturesque hills in the California sunshine.

Social activities we regularly include:

    • Exercise classes (e.g., stretching and nature walks).
    • Creative activities (e.g., arts and crafts, baking, and music).
    • Social activities (e.g., movie nights, ice cream socials, dancing, and singing).
    • Adult educational classes (e.g., world event classes).
    • Special events (e.g., therapy dogs, barbeques, concerts, and parties).

Contact us today to arrange a guided tour and learn why San Diego families have entrusted Alpine View Lodge with their loved ones’ memory care for almost half a century. 

Cited Sources