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Higher levels of social activity decrease the risk of developing disability in old age
Date:2/17/2011

CHICAGOAfraid of becoming disabled in old age, not being able to dress yourself or walk up and down the stairs? Staying physically active before symptoms set in could help. But so could going out to eat, playing bingo and taking overnight trips.

According to research conducted at Rush University Medical Center, higher levels of social activity are associated with a decreased risk of becoming disabled. The study has just been posted online and will be published in the April issue of the Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences.

"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, PhD, postdoctoral fellow in the epidemiology of aging and dementia in the Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center. "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."

The study included 954 older adults with a mean age of 82 who are participating in the Rush Memory and Aging Project, an ongoing longitudinal study of common chronic conditions of aging. At the start of the investigation, none of the participants had any form of disability. They each underwent yearly evaluations that included a medical history and neurological and neuropsychological tests.

Social activity was measured based on a questionnaire that assessed whether, and how often, participants went to restaurants, sporting events or the teletract (off-track betting) or played bingo; went on day trips or overnight trips; did volunteer work; visited relatives or friends; participated in groups such as the Knights of Columbus; or attended religious services.

To assess disability, participants were asked whether they could perform six activities of daily living without help: feeding, bath
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Contact: Sharon Butler
Sharon_Butler@rush.edu
312-942-7816
Rush University Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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