MONDAY, Feb. 21 (HealthDay News) -- Seniors who are more
socially active are less likely to become disabled, researchers
The study from Rush University in Chicago looked at 954 elderly
people, average age 82, who had no type of disability at the start
of the study period. The participants underwent yearly physical and
mental evaluations and provided information about their social
activities, such as going out to eat, playing bingo, doing
volunteer work, taking day or overnight trips, and participating in
Compared to people with low levels of social activity, people
who had high levels of social activity were about twice as likely
to remain free of disabilities that hindered activities of daily
living (such as feeding, bathing, dressing, using the toilet) and
about 1.5 times more likely to remain free of disabilities that
affected mobility or instrumental activities of daily living (for
example, using the telephone, preparing meals and managing
medications), the investigators found.
"Social activity has long been recognized as an essential component of healthy aging, but now we have strong evidence that it is also related to better everyday functioning and less disability in old age," lead researcher Bryan James, postdoctoral fellow in epidemiology of aging and dementia at Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center, said in a university news release.
"The findings are exciting because social activity is potentially a risk factor that can be modified to help older adults avoid the burdens of disability," he added.
It's not clear how social activity helps prevent disability, but
it may reinforce the neural networks and musculoskeletal function
required to maintain physical function, James said.
The study was released online in advance of publication in the
April print issue of the
Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences.
The U.S. National Institute on Aging has more about