Alleviating loneliness and depression in older people through social interaction and storytelling

Increasing numbers of people are living with dementia and as the disease progresses, many people find it difficult to form new relationships and experience depression. The project aims to ameliorate the situation through face-to-face and online workshops in which storyboards promote communication and build relationships while reducing loneliness and depression. Participants will have opportunities to talk about personal memories and they will negotiate with other workshop members to produce a group-authored story to take away.


Catalysts R3

Lead Organisation

University of Sussex


South East (England)


Living well with Cognitive Impairment, Social Support Connections

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About the project

We plan to develop a group story-telling activity for people living with dementia. Our motivation lies in observing the contrasting linguistic behaviour of speakers when reminiscing about their earlier life and when reacting to events in-the-moment. In-the-moment speech appears to be more fluent, supported by shorter turns and shared conversational roles; and more agentive, as evidenced in the presence of linguistic directives, first-person declaratives and other deontic expressions of intent, or taking the first turn in an agency pair, such as when asking a question. The proposed activity will achieve a balance between the two conditions, represented by the natural tendency of people to talk about themselves and the less predictable interaction enabled in social contexts.

To further our key objective, we propose four other initiatives running alongside the development of the activity: ongoing stakeholder involvement in the trialling and development of the activity; a bespoke training course for facilitators interested in running the activity; an interactive website to support the facilitators; and the creation of a Community Interest Company to ensure the activity, training course, and website are self-sustaining.

Along with a report of well-being measurements completed by participants before and after each workshop, the more conventional research output will be a linguistic analysis of participants’ speech. It is hypothesised that speech in the second, group interaction part of the workshop will be more fluent and agentive than the first more person-centred part. In common with other arts-based activities in this domain, associated improvements in well-being are expected.


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