Social activity reduces elder disability

Feb. 19, 2011 at 4:44 PM

CHICAGO, Feb. 19 (UPI) -- Those fearing less independence when elderly are advised to stay physically active, but going out to eat or playing bingo also help, U.S. researchers say.

Lead researcher Bryan James, a postdoctoral fellow at the Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center, and colleagues say the study involved 954 older adults with a mean age of 82. At the study beginning, none of the participants had any form of disability and they underwent yearly evaluations.

Social activity -- such as going to restaurants, sporting events or off-track betting; bingo; day trips or overnight trips; volunteer work; visiting relatives or friends; participating in groups such as the Knights of Columbus; or attending religious services -- was measured based on a questionnaires.

To assess disability, study participants were evaluated on their abilities for feeding, bathing, dressing, toileting, transferring and walking across a small room. They were also assessed walking up and down a flight of stairs, walking a half mile and doing heavy housework, the researchers say.

The study, published online ahead of print in the April issue of the Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences, shows a person who reports a high level of social activity was about twice as likely to remain free of a disability involving activities of daily living than a person with a low level of social activity.

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