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Reminiscence therapy can reduce social isolation and depression in people living in urban residential aged-care facilities

Franck L, Molyneux N, Parkinson L. Systematic review of interventions addressing social isolation and depression in aged care clients  Quality of Life Research. 2015 December.

Review question

Do interventions to reduce social isolation and depression work for older adults living in urban residential aged-care facilities?


Prevalence and risk of social isolation and depression are higher among older adults living in residential aged-care facilities, which are detrimental to their physical and mental health.

Recent studies suggest that certain factors in residential aged-care settings aggravate and prolong social isolation compared to private dwellings in the community.

There is a need to identify interventions that can reduce social isolation and depression among older adults living in urban residential aged-care facilities.

How the review was done

A detailed search of a number of electronic databases for studies published from 2009 to 2013 was conducted. Studies that focused on interventions addressing the outcomes of social isolation and/or depression in clients aged 60 or older living in urban aged-care facilities were included in the review.

A total of 828 articles were identified in searches, and five studies were included in the review after assessments for eligibility.

This review was funded by the PresCare organization.

What the researchers found

The review found that reminiscence therapy (e.g., sharing stories and memories in groups) facilitated by trained staff is the most successful intervention for reducing loneliness and depression among older adults living in urban aged-care facilities, as it provides support and social interaction.

Most of the moderate- to high-quality studies included in the review reported that group-based activities (e.g., gardening and playing video games) were effective and reduced social isolation.


While this review found that reminiscence therapy facilitated by trained staff is the most effective intervention for reducing social isolation and depression, the focus is on urban settings, and more research is required to determine the effectiveness and feasibility of these interventions in a rural context.


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