An Integrative Framework to Guide Social Engagement Interventions and Technology Design for Persons With Mild Cognitive Impairment

Elizabeth A. Lydon, Lydia T. Nguyen, Qiong Nie, Wendy A. Rogers, Raksha A. Mudar

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Social isolation and loneliness in older adults are associated with poor health outcomes and have been linked to an increased risk of cognitive impairment and incident dementia. Social engagement has been identified as a key factor in promoting positive health behaviors and quality of life and preventing social isolation and loneliness. Studies involving cognitively healthy older adults have shown the protective effects of both in-person and technology-based social engagement. However, the benefits of social engagement for people who are already at-risk of developing dementia, namely those with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), have yet to be elucidated. We present a narrative review of the literature, summarizing the research on social engagement in MCI. First, we identified social networks (quality, size, frequency, and closeness) and social activities (frequency, format, purpose, type, and content) as two overarching dimensions of an integrative framework for social engagement derived from literature examining typical cognitive aging. We then used this framework as a lens to examine studies of social engagement in MCI to explore (i) the relationship between in-person and technology-based social engagement and cognitive, emotional, and physical health, and (ii) interventions that target social engagement including technology-based approaches. Overall, we found that persons with MCI (PwMCI) may have different levels of social engagement than those experiencing typical cognitive aging. Moreover, in-person social engagement can have a positive impact on cognitive, emotional, and physical health for PwMCI. With respect to activity and network dimensions in our framework, we found that cognitive health has been more widely examined in PwMCI relative to physical and emotional health. Very few intervention studies have targeted social engagement, but both in-person and technology-based interventions appear to have promising health and well-being outcomes. Our multidimensional framework of social engagement provides guidance for research on characterizing the protective benefits of social engagement for PwMCI and informs the development of novel interventions including technology-based approaches.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number750340
JournalFrontiers in Public Health
StatePublished - Jan 14 2022


  • loneliness
  • mild cognitive impairment
  • social activity
  • social engagement
  • social isolation
  • social network
  • technology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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