Social Connection

For many people in modern Irish society, old age is a time of great change and transition. As the later life course unfolds physical mobility may become restricted through illness or disability inhibiting social activities outside of the home; friends and family may be busy or live some distance away; neighbours unknown or at work; and peer networks begin to dissipate.  The result for many older people is loneliness, depression, isolation and an overall decline in quality of life. Maintaining social interaction contributes to social, physical and mental health.

The social connection strand will directly address these issues through its work with the TRIL cohort in parallel with a program of studies exploring the ways that technologies can facilitate social interaction among the ecosystems of ageing populations.

The aims of the Social Connection strand 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.