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

was the same as being about five years older at the start of the study, they found. This decline in motor function was also linked with a more than 40-percent increased risk of dying and a 65-percent increased risk of developing disability, Buchman said.

"Social engagement may slow the rate of age-related motor decline," Buchman said.

The association between socialization and decline in motor function remained even after taking into account factors such as late-life physical and cognitive activity, disability, global cognition depressive symptoms, body composition and chronic medical conditions, the researchers noted.

Experts on aging weren't surprised by the findings. Colin Milner, CEO of the International Council on Active Aging in Vancouver, has seen this phenomenon in his own father.

"Inherently we know that being social is important in life and good, but a lot of times we don't relate it to physical health, " Milner said.

"My dad is 77, he doesn't get out, he just sits around all day," Milner said. "He retired two years ago and probably lost his purpose for life. He has just literally declined and aged in front of me, and now looks as old as my grandfather does at 98."

Before he retired, Milner's father was socially engaged. "He was vibrant, now his skin color has changed, just everything has changed," Milner said.

The factors that contribute to the decline are physical and psychological, Milner said.

"We are social beings," Milner said. "If you are socially engaged, you are out and about and getting some movement. Friends are good, being involved in social activities is good. If you are engaged in life, you are engaged in all the things that keep you healthy."

More information

For more information on healthy aging, visit the U.S. National Institutes of Health .




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