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Social network members who engage in activities with older adults: do they bring more social benefits than other members?



Active participation in social activities is important for the wellbeing of older adults. This study explored benefits of active social engagement by evaluating whether relationships that comprise active involvement (e.g. co-engagement in activities) bring more social benefits (i.e. social support, companionship, positive social influence) than other relationships that do not involve co-engagement. A total of 133 adults ages 60 years and older living in a rural Midwestern city in the United States of America were interviewed once and provided information on 1,740 social network members. Among 1,506 social relationships in which interactions occurred at least once a month, 52 per cent involved engagement in social activities together and 35 per cent involved eating together regularly. Results of the generalised linear mixed model showed that relationships involving co-engagement were significantly more likely to also convey social support (i.e. emotional, instrumental, informational), companionship and social influence (encouragement for healthy behaviours) than relationships that do not involve co-engagement. Having more network members who provide companionship was associated with higher sense of environmental mastery, positive relations with others and satisfaction with social network. Interventions may focus on maintaining and developing such social relationships and ensuring the presence of social settings in which co-engagement can occur. Future research may explore whether increasing co-engagement leads to an enhanced sense of companionship and psychological wellbeing.

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Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: Sato Ashida, Department of Community & Behavioral Health, The University of Iowa College of Public Health, The University of Iowa Aging Mind and Brain Initiative (AMBI), 145 North Riverside Drive, Iowa City, IA 52242, USA E-mail:


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