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USC: Active social, spiritual and physical life helps prevent health decline in seniors
Date:6/8/2011

Small, healthy lifestyle changes and involvement in meaningful activitiesgoing beyond just diet and exerciseare critical to healthy aging, according to a new USC study.

Guided by lifestyle advisors, seniors participating in the study made small, sustainable changes in their routines (such as visiting a museum with a friend once a week) that led to measurable gains in quality of life, including lower rates of depression and better reported satisfaction with life.

The study validates the current trend in public health strategies to focus on preventing illness and disability, as opposed to treating issues once they have already begun to negatively impact health, according to lead investigator Florence Clark.

"What is critical is that, as we age, we continue to be engaged in life through a sustainable mix of productive, social, physical and spiritual activities. This goal of prevention and wellness is really a key to health care reform, and results in cost savings to society," said Clark, professor and associate dean of the Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy at the Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC, and president of the American Occupational Therapy Association.

"The emphasis now is prevention," she said. "There are non-pharmacologic interventions that work."

The Well Elderly 2 trial was performed between 2004 and 2009, with the write-up appearing in the June 2 issue of the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

During six-month periods, licensed occupational therapists assisted more than 200 individuals aged 60 and older to develop sustainably healthy lifestyles and see if they improved the participants' overall quality of life.

"The key to the individualized plans was to make them sustainable," Clark said.

For example, some people like going to the gym to stay physically healthy, but others find the thought of slaving away in a room indoors for th
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Contact: Robert Perkins
perkinsr@usc.edu
213-740-9226
University of Southern California
Source:Eurekalert

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