Collaboration aims to improve social cognitive skills to combat loneliness and dementia

Enhancing social cognitive skills in older adults to reduce loneliness and mitigate the impact of dementia is the focus of an Australian collaboration. Silverchain, UNSW Sydney’s Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing (CHeBA), and The University of Queensland have launched an Australian-first trial to address the lack of targeted treatment for social cognitive impairments in the elderly.

The pioneering program aims to slow the decline of cognitive abilities and dementia by enhancing the social cognitive skills of older adults with cognitive concerns. By promoting social connection, boosting confidence in social situations, and encouraging participation in activities, the program seeks to improve the quality of life for older individuals.

The collaboration, funded by a Dementia Australia Research Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship awarded to Dr Suraj Samtani at CHeBA, will be implemented at Silverchain. In a statement, Professor Tanya Davison, Silverchain’s Director of Research Discovery, expressed the organisation’s commitment to helping older Australians maintain social connections and age in their preferred environment.

The program, developed by the research team, will be accessible online and has the potential to benefit older people throughout Australia, including those living in regional or remote areas. With over 115,000 clients served annually, Silverchain aims to remove barriers to accessing care and improve health and well-being.

Older Australians with subjective cognitive decline or in the early stages of dementia often experience changes in social cognitive skills that increase their risk of loneliness and depression. As their condition worsens, social networks tend to shrink, leading to greater isolation and cognitive decline. By addressing social withdrawal and loneliness, improving social cognitive skills could have a direct impact on the mental health and social connection of older adults with cognitive concerns.

Dr Samtani highlighted the partnership with Silverchain as an opportunity to reach older adults in both urban and remote areas, with the goal of training Silverchain’s care teams to provide the intervention to thousands of older Australians as part of routine care.

Professor Julie Henry from UQ’s School of Psychology emphasised the significance of social cognitive skills for mental health and wellbeing. Early intervention has the potential to meaningfully improve social engagement, community participation, relationships, and quality of life for older Australians.

The research trial will provide valuable insights into how enhancing cognitive skills can enhance the lives of older people living with dementia and potentially reduce the economic burden associated with the condition. With nearly 50 million people worldwide affected by dementia and an estimated annual global cost of $818 million, the program, if found effective, could be made freely available to all Australians.


  1. What an excellent project you are embarking on – totally agree – social isolation & the tyranny of loneliness and lack of intellectual stimulation, is a debilitating and deteriorating curse for sufferers of Dementia. Whereas not my SME – as I specialise in older persons MH – not dementia – I am caught up in struggling to find in home support & clinical support services – in particular for dementia sufferers who live alone. There is a HUGE GAP for home care Dementia specialist Nurses – in fact where I work in a Rural & remote NSW LHD – there are none. Dementia funding, Home Care services provision and support are heavily weighted into online training and education, carer support and ACAT packages – care providers. If there are OPMH Clinicians for in-reach clinical/MH in the home support – why isnt there the same for Dementia.
    I have 64y/o Aboriginal Male – lives on his own in an isolated rural property.
    He is on a Level 3 package – 4 hrs pw – most of this L3 package he funding is chewed up by out of area, carer travel time & mileage costs . He has no immediate family or friends to support him support – He is a HIGH falls Risk – & HIGH risk of misadventure – leaving pots on cooker, s incorrect self medicating.
    When I sought in home care Dementia support from Dementia Support Australia – I was told as he hasn’t got a care he is out of their remit – & as he is not presenting with Behaviours of concern Dementia Australia are also unable to assist him.
    This is a HUGE GAP – we have so many specialist clinicians eg Diabetes, Palliative Care, Beast Care, OPMH – providing in reach home support services – but nothing for older person Dementia sufferers – especially those living alone – who need it the most.
    Thanking you for your time – & congratulations on such an exciting a pioneering research project


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