Sociable seniors show lower risk for becoming disabled in old age, study finds

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Older adults who remain as physically and socially active as possible have a better chance of not becoming disabled in their elderly years, say researchers at Rush University in Chicago.

Investigators studied 954 older adults with a mean age of 82 who were not classified as disabled at the beginning of the study. The scientists measured social activity by having participants report how often they did activities such as going out to eat, attending sports events, playing bingo, taking weekend trips, doing volunteer work and more. They then assessed patients regarding disabilities by asking them about daily task performance, and whether they were able to do the following without help: bathe, prepare meals, get dressed, walk across a room unassisted, do housework, go up and down stairs and other daily activities.

Results found that seniors with a high level of activity were twice as likely to remain independent and disability-free for longer periods of time. "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," said lead researcher Bryan James, Ph.D. The study will be published in the April issue of the Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences.
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