Social engagement among seniors can slow motor function loss and fend off overall age-related decline, according to a recently published study.

Researchers at Rush University Medical Center looked at grip strength, agility, dexterity, visual acuity and other motor skills when determining the effects of social activity on seniors. More than 900 seniors were studied between 1997 and 2008. Answers to a variety of questions about social habits (how often they eat out, visit with friends or attend church) were rated on a five-point scale. When it came to the results, researchers found that for every one-point-average decrease, there was a 33% increase in the rate of motor function decline.

Every one-point decrease was the equivalent of being five years older at the start of the study, according to the researchers. In addition to a more rapid rate of motor decline, less-frequent socializing was associated with a 40% increase in the likelihood of dieing earlier, and a 65% increase in the risk of developing a disability. The results of the study were published June 22 in the Archives of Internal Medicine.