A randomised controlled trial of a co-designed social cognitive skills intervention for older adults with cognitive concerns
Older adults with cognitive concerns are at greater risk of loneliness, depression, and dementia. Often their cognitive difficulties are related not only to memory problems but also difficulties in social situations, such as missing social cues or having trouble keeping conversations going. Existing treatments focus on improving memory or language but there is no treatment focusing on enhancing or maintaining social skills and connections. The Team at UNSW Sydney received a pilot grant to co-design a ‘Maintaining Social Engagement program’ with Dementia Australia advocates. It’s an online group program targeting social cognitive skills such as reading body language, keeping conversations going, overcoming memory and sensory challenges, and being assertive. The pilot study revealed promising improvements in understanding and communicating with others. With this Fellowship, Dr Samtani will run a randomised controlled trial to test if the program helps older adults with cognitive concerns to stay socially connected. He will partner with Silverchain, one of Australia’s largest aged care providers, who provide services for over 21,000 older adults in the community. Dr Samtani’s goal is to help older adults with cognitive concerns feel more confident in social situations, feel connected and happier, and potentially improve their quality of life.
Dr Suraj Samtani is a postdoctoral fellow at the Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing (CHeBA) at UNSW Sydney.