SIGN’s aging research has focused on understanding when, how and why social groups are beneficial for the cognitive health, mental health, and well-being of older adults. There are two strands of this work that draw on theories from clinical and social psychology.
The first focuses on the impact that processes of multiple group membership and social group maintenance have on health outcomes particularly in the context of experiencing major life transitions (e.g., retirement, moving into residential care). Both mechanisms have been found to be central to protecting health and well-being through enabling access to multiple sources of support and providing a sense of self-continuity in the face of experiencing change. This has been demonstrated in a range of papers with a key early paper provided below.
Haslam, C., Holme, A., Haslam, S.A., Iyer, A., Jetten, J., & Williams, W.H. (2008). Maintaining group membership: Identity continuity and well-being after stroke. Neuropsychological Rehabilitation, 18, 671-691. [Full Text]
A second strand investigates the impact of social group-based interventions. These experimental studies ranged from implementation of reminiscence groups (where groups collectively recollect past memories and experiences), to design teams (involving people working together to redesign communal spaces in their care home), water clubs (to combat the problem of dehydration), and Men’s Clubs (to manage social isolation). Despite their varying content they all shared the same aim of building a sense of belonging and identification through engagement in meaningful group activity and it was through this mechanism that enhancement in cognitive performance and mental health emerged. These findings are reported in a range of papers, though here we provide again a key early paper that was the first to examine the role of social identity processes to group-based intervention outcomes.
Haslam, C., Haslam, S.A., Jetten, J., Bevins, A., Ravenscroft, S., & Tonks, J. (2010). The social treatment: Benefits of group reminiscence and group activity for the cognitive performance and well-being of older adults in residential care. Psychology and Aging, 25, 157-167. [Full Text]