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Alzheimer's Disease Health Center

Strong Social Ties Reduce Seniors' Risk of Dementia

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Additionally, the risk of dementia was higher among participants who reported poor relationships with their children than among those who did not have children, the study showed.

The new findings "suggest that [social] networks may be protective [against dementia] because of the social engagement and satisfaction they provide," Lisa F. Berkman, PhD, of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, writes in an editorial accompanying the study. "Social engagement probably challenges people to communicate effectively and to participate in complex interpersonal exchanges."

"Intuitively, the findings make a lot of sense," Neil Buckholtz, PhD, chief of the dementias and aging branch of the National Institute on Aging in Bethesda, Md., tells WebMD. "Keeping active and engaging in the world should be helpful in terms of keeping cognitive function going."

For families who are dealing with caring for an elderly loved one with dementia, David A. Olson, MD, a behavioral neurologist at Georgia Regional Hospital in Atlanta and a medical advisor to WebMD, advises finding day programs.

"They may also want to intensively investigate the daily activity schedules of nursing homes when deciding on the appropriate placement for their relatives requiring institutional settings," he says.

  • New research shows that elderly patients with a limited social network have a 60% greater risk of developing dementia, or age-related memory loss.
  • This evidence supports the theory that emotional and intellectual stimulation can delay the onset of dementia.
  • One researcher suggests that opting for home care over institutions for the elderly may result in older people becoming isolated.
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