Social Connection

The majority of older Irish people wish to age in place and live out their lives in their own homes. Declining physical and mental health due to conditions such as falls and cognitive impairment can impact on an older person’s ability to live independently; increased social support and connectness can improve the likelihood of independent living and enhance quality of life.

With the dramatic expansion of the older age group in Ireland and the decreased availability of informal support available from family members, due to the fact that more women are in the workforce, the support network for older Irish people is coming under increasing strain. The development and implementation of new interventions and technologies that can maintain independent living in the face of shifting social networks will be a key focus for research.

 The specific aims of the social connection team are:

  • To understand the taxonomy of social engagement and social activity in older people and determine the relative impact of qualitative and quantitative aspects of social engagement on physical and mental health variables and on functioning ability.
  • To explore the relationship between social activity, the type of social network, depression and personality. Is the type of network and social engagement related to personality type, is this relatively fixed and can it be modified by interventions?
  • To explore the effect of life events and variations in social activity, social support and social networks and to identify opportunities for technological interventions.
  • To examine the reciprocal relationship between falls and cognitive impairment in older people and indices of social engagement, social activity and mental health.
  • To iteratively develop technological interventions that will help older people, with and without disabilities, and their informal care networks to sustain or improve social engagement.
  • To examine the effect of technological interventions and compare them to traditional interventions that can improve social engagement and measure differences on a range of mental and physical health outcomes.