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Social Activity Keeps Elders Young, Agile
Date:6/22/2009

Seniors who don't socialize regularly risk losing motor function, researchers say ,,

MONDAY, June 22 (HealthDay News) -- Older people who don't socialize much might be increasing their risk for declining motor function and hastening their death, researchers from Rush University Medical Center report.

On the positive side, sociable seniors who keep active physically and mentally tend to stave off the decline in physical ability often associated with aging, the scientists added.

"A broader range of activities in elders, including physical, social and cognitive activities, may slow the rate of age-related decline," said lead researcher Dr. Aron S. Buchman, an associate professor in the department of neurological sciences.

"Less frequent participation in social activity was associated with a more rapid rate of motor decline," he added.

The report is published in the June 22 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

For the study, Buchman and colleagues collected data on 906 older adults who took part in the Rush Memory and Aging Project from 1997 to 2008. Over almost five years, the researchers measured various motor functions, including participants' grip and pinch strength; the ability to stand on one leg and on their toes; whether they could walk in line in a heel-to-toe manner; how quickly they could put pegs on a board, and their rate of index-finger tapping in a 10-second period.

Participants were also asked about social activities, such as eating out, volunteering, visiting with friends or relatives and attending religious services. The frequency of these activities was rated on a five-point scale.

Infrequent social activities were associated with a more rapid rate of decline in motor function. For every point decrease in social activity, the researchers noted a 33-percent faster rate of decline in motor function.

A one-point decrease in social activity
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