Effects of socially stimulating group intervention on lonely, older people's cognition: a randomized, controlled trial

Am J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2011 Jul;19(7):654-63. doi: 10.1097/JGP.0b013e3181f7d8b0.


Objective: Loneliness may predict impaired cognition among older people. The aim of this study was to determine the effects of socially stimulating group intervention on cognition among older individuals suffering from loneliness.

Design: A randomized controlled trial.

Setting and participants: Two hundred thirty-five participants (≥75 years) in seven day care centers in Finland.

Intervention: Group intervention was based on the effects of closed-group dynamics and peer support. The three-month intervention was aimed to enhance interaction and friendships between participants and to socially stimulate them. Each group was facilitated by two specifically trained professionals. In addition to active discussions, the groups included three types of activities depending on the participants' interests: 1) therapeutic writing; 2) group exercise; and 3) art experiences.

Measurements: Cognition was measured by the Alzheimer's Disease Assessment Scale (ADAS-Cog), and mental function was measured by the 15D measure.

Results: The intervention and control groups were similar at baseline with respect to their demographics, disease burden, depression, and cognition. The ADAS-Cog scale improved more in the intervention group than in the control group within the three-month period, with mean changes being -2.6 points (95% confidence interval [CI]: -3.4 to -1.8) and -1.6 points (95% CI: -2.2 to -1.0), respectively. The dimension of mental function in the 15D showed significant improvement at 12 months in the intervention group (+0.048, 95% CI: +0.013 to +0.085) compared with the control group (-0.027, 95% CI: -0.063 to +0.010).

Conclusion: Psychosocial group intervention improved lonely older people's cognition.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Art Therapy
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Exercise
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Loneliness / psychology*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Psychotherapy, Group*
  • Writing