Background: During the COVID-19 pandemic, deaths of Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) and dementia patients surged. Increased social isolation and decreased activity levels in older adults have been suggested as contributing factors to accelerating AD and dementia. However, assessment tools to gauge interventions and outcomes of cognitive decline are variable among the literature.
Objective: Examine the impact of social engagement versus social isolation, like that experienced with the COVID-19 pandemic, on cognitive decline/dementia in older adults (greater than 60 years of age).
Method: A systematic search for studies evaluating the relationship between social isolation and social activity in cognitive function was conducted in health and science databases. Of the 21 articles meeting the review criteria, nine were eligible for inclusion and subjected to further analysis. Sub-analyses examined the discordance between social interaction and social isolation on cognitive function in older adults.
Results: Evidence suggests significant correlations exist between having larger social networks and actively engaging in social activities with enhanced cognitive function outcomes. Conversely, social isolation and loneliness can negatively impact an array of cognitive abilities in older adults.
Conclusion: A positive correlation between social isolation and cognitive decline exists. Studies show social engagement and cognitively stimulating activities can have a protective and positive influence on the outcomes of both dementia and overall health in older adults. Further research is needed to measure the aftermath of pandemic-like isolation on cognitive decline in older adults, identify detailed preventative support therapies and interventions utilized during confinement, and create unambiguous classification terms of the topic matter.
Date of Degree
Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)
School of Nursing
Allied Health and Nursing
Doll-Wilhelm, J. L. (2021). The impact of social isolation and cognitive decline in older adults: A systematic literature review [Master’s alternative plan paper, Minnesota State University, Mankato]. Cornerstone: A Collection of Scholarly and Creative Works for Minnesota State University, Mankato. https://cornerstone.lib.mnsu.edu/etds/1089/
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