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Older Americans are more socially engaged than many people may think
Date:4/16/2008

A new University of Chicago study shows that older people remain vital and active members of society as they age, despite a popular notion that they are more likely to be socially isolated.

A research team found that although older individuals have fewer intimate relationships, they may respond to social loss by becoming more likely to volunteer, attend religious services and spend time with their neighbors than those in their 50s.

A persons social network will inevitably shrink a little as they retire, as they begin to experience bereavements, and so on. That is where the stereotype comes from, said University researcher Benjamin Cornwell.

But that stereotypical image of the isolated elderly really falls apart when we broaden our conception of what social connectedness is. In our study, we looked at other forms of social involvement as well and found that older adults are more socially engaged in the community than we thought, he said. The study, the first systematic, nationally representative look at both social networks and community involvement among older Americans, revealed these details of social involvement:

  • About three-quarters of older adults between the ages of 57 and 85 socialize with their neighbors, attend religious services, volunteer or attend meetings of other organized groups on at least a weekly basis. Those in their 80s were twice as likely as those in their 50s to engage in one of these activities.

  • Whereas about 50 percent of people in their 70s and 80s socialize with neighbors on at least a weekly basis, about 40 percent of people in their 50s and 60s do. In fact, people in their early 80s are more than twice as likely to socialize with their neighbors than people in their late 50s.

  • About 50 percent of those in their 70s and 80s attend religious services on at least a weekly basis, compared to 40 percent of people in their 50s and 60s. People in their 70s are twice a
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Contact: William Harms
w-harms@uchicago.edu
773-702-8356
University of Chicago
Source:Eurekalert

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