Study shows that socializing — even over the phone — can keep your mind sharp in old age

While some of us aren’t getting to hang out as much as we used to, a new study from Penn State shows how important it is for us to interact — even if it’s over the phone or online.

The researchers noted that their more than 300 test subjects, who ranged from 70 to in their 90s, enjoyed a mental boost days after a pleasant social interaction with others. 

Study leader Ruixue Zhaoyang, an assistant research professor of the Center for Healthy Aging at Penn State, noted how noteworthy their findings were.

“Our study is one of the first to show that whether you have social interactions on one day can immediately affect your cognitive performance that same day and also on the following days,” Zhaoyang said “The fact that we found that the cognitive benefits…could manifest over such a short time period was a happy surprise and could be a promising area for future intervention studies.”

This is important considering roughly six million Americans currently live with Alzheimer’s, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. The organization notes that some experts speculate that number could more than double by 2050. Meanwhile, deaths from Alzheimer’s and dementia increased by 16 percent since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias impose substantial burdens on patients as well as their family and caregivers,” Zhaoyang says. “Social isolation later in life is one risk factor for dementia, and also one we have some control over.”