Improving Social Identity and Cognitive Performance of Elderly Care Residents

Improving standards of elderly care should be a priority of any modern society, it could be argued that psychological aspects of that care are just as important as the physical aspects.

Research has shown how group cognitive stimulation programmes are of benefit within elderly care settings but this research to date has been limited and has not shown universal benefits.

Joint research conducted by researchers at the University of Queensland, Australia as well as UK universities set out to establish if the sense of identity that social groups provide could help to promote cognitive performance and well-being. (Haslam et al., 2012)

For the research residents were allocated to one of the following groups:

(a) they were empowered as a group to make decisions about the redecoration of a communal lounge (the Intervention condition)
(b) staff made these decisions for them (a Comparison condition)
(c) their lounge was unchanged (a Control condition)

The residents, whose average age was 86 were assessed before and after the experiment to establish levels of cognitive function, social identification and home satisfaction.

The researchers found that the residents who were allocated to group (a) – that is those residents who were empowered to make a collective decision about the decor of their lounge showed the most marked increase in all of the measures.

It was also only in this condition that significant improvements in cognitive performance, environmental and life satisfaction, and social engagement (as indexed by their use of communal lounges) were observed.

This research shows that the simple act of user involvement and empowerment can be easily translated into practice and can have such a big effect. Meaningful engagement through which health and well-being can be enhanced and in this example showed an improvement in cognitive performance, environmental and life satisfaction, and social engagement.