The importance of social connections as people age

November 30, 2000

One of the most powerful ways to predict psychological well-being among middle-aged and older adults is to look at how socially connected they are to other people. The latest research on the nature of social integration and what can strengthen and broaden it, is presented by Cornell University researchers in a new book, Social Integration in the Second Half of Life (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000). The book explores the theory and research on how meaningful and enduring social connections serve as a buffer against stress and promote morale, physical and mental health as people age.

"We seek to explore the factors that lead to social integration or, conversely, to social isolation in the second half of life," says Karl Pillemer, the first co-editor on the book and co-director of the Cornell Gerontology Research Institute. The four co-editors and numerous contributors to the volume all are, or have been, affiliated with the institute.

"We also explore the consequences of social integration in terms of psychological well-being, life satisfaction and physical health," Pillemer says. "Remaining socially integrated until the end of life is, in our view, a key component of successful aging."

The first section of the 318-page volume discusses basic theory and principles of social integration in later life and its implications for health. The second section examines the specific issues of retirement, driving, family support, housing and neighbors. The third section looks at interventions to promote social integration; these include transportation, volunteering and peer support for dementia caregivers.

The Cornell co-editors are Pillemer; Phyllis Moen, the Ferris Family Professor of Life Course Studies and director of the Bronfenbrenner Life Course Center; Elaine Wethington, associate professor human development and sociology; and Nina Glasgow, a senior research associate in rural sociology.

Related World Wide Web sites: The following sites provide additional information on this news release. Some might not be part of the Cornell University community, and Cornell has no control over their content or availability. o Johns Hopkins University Press:

o Cornell Gerontology Research Institute:

EDITORS: For a review copy, contact Karen Willmes, at 410-516-6932 or

Cornell University

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