Navigation Links
Volunteering May Keep Elderly Stronger
Date:12/31/2009

Finding debunks myth that condition is unavoidable, expert says

THURSDAY, Dec. 31 (HealthDay News) -- Volunteering one's time and energy might help stave off frailty among the elderly.

The notion is drawn from a fresh analysis of data nearly two decades old that tracked the activities of over 1,000 physically active men and women in their 70s who were described as reasonably high-functioning.

Those who spent time volunteering were less likely to become frail, a physical diminishing that sometimes happens among the elderly.

"Of course, this certainly does not prove that volunteering prevents frailty," cautioned Dr. Catherine Sarkisian, an associate professor of geriatrics at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles. "This was an observational study. But this suggests that maybe there is something about working to help other people -- and getting outside yourself -- that has benefits for the elderly, both mentally and physically."

The data were initially collected between 1988 and 1991 by the MacArthur Study of Successful Aging. Among the participants, 28 percent did some type of volunteer work, 25 percent performed child-care duties and 19 percent worked for a salary. Some did more than one of these activities, and 45 percent participated in none of them, the study found.

Sarkisian, who is also a staff physician with the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System, and her fellow researchers assessed the degree of frailty among the participants based on five criteria: weight loss, weakness in grip strength, exhaustion, slow movement and low levels of physical activity.

About 3 percent of the participants had been classified as frail at the start of the study, and after three years, the number had risen to 7 percent.

After accounting for such factors as age, cognitive function and disability, the researchers found that neither paid work nor child care appeared to protect against the onset of frailty. However, volunteering was associated with a reduced risk for becoming frail, they concluded.

Their findings were published online Dec. 16 in the Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences.

Using different definitions of frailty might alter the findings, the researchers said, and they stressed that it would be premature to suggest that volunteer work directly protected against frailty. Other factors -- including religious beliefs and practices, and having a strong sense of "personal mastery" about one's activities -- could also play a role in warding off frailty, they noted.

"But I think the most exciting thing about this subject in general is that so often we've assumed that frailty is something that you can't avoid when you get old," Sarkisian said. "And for many people, that is certainly true. But it's exciting to think that maybe there are potentially many things we can do outside of medicine that can help stave off frailty."

She noted that researchers have already begun further exploration of a volunteerism-frailty connection.

S. Jay Olshansky, a senior research scientist at the University of Illinois School of Public Health, said he already views the current study as "encouraging" and a potential boon to elder care.

"There's always a potential selection bias going on with this sort of study, meaning that, in general, people who become frail cannot volunteer in the first place so the ones who are left behind are, by definition, the ones who are healthy," he explained.

"But I have to say that that problem aside, I'm not surprised by this finding," Olshansky said. "The evidence I've seen elsewhere suggesting that this could be beneficial is extremely promising -- and exciting, actually -- because it's the very kind of research that illustrates the malleability of people at almost every age."

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Aging has information on healthy aging.



SOURCES: Catherine Sarkisian, M.D., associate professor, division of geriatrics, David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles, and staff physician, VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System, Los Angeles; S. Jay Olshansky, Ph.D., professor, epidemiology and public health, and senior research scientist, School of Public Health, University of Illinois, Chicago; Dec. 16, 2009, Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences, online


'/>"/>
Copyright©2009 ScoutNews,LLC.
All rights reserved

Related medicine news :

1. Travel, Faith, Volunteering & Good Health Converge
2. Economy Doesnt Dampen Colorados Giving Spirit According to Statewide Giving and Volunteering Study
3. January 2009 Mayo Clinic Womens HealthSource Highlights Stroke Symptoms, Personal Health Records and Volunteering
4. First Lady Michelle Obama and California First Lady Maria Shriver Kick Off 2009 National Conference on Volunteering & Service with Playground Service Project
5. Gene Tied to Post-Op Delirium in Elderly
6. Chinas 1-child policy could backfire on its elderly
7. Divorce foretells childs future care for elderly parent
8. Brain atrophy in elderly leads to unintended racism, depression and problem gambling
9. Planning for 2020: increasing elderly population poses huge challenges in cancer care
10. NIH scientists describe ways to better assess benefits of influenza vaccine in the elderly
11. Survey reveals ignorance and confusion about cancer amongst the elderly
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:12/2/2016)... Dothan, AL (PRWEB) , ... December 02, 2016 ... ... leaders from across the Dothan-Wiregrass Area in Alabama are expected to attend the ... Mike Schmitz, will help provide scholarship funds for area students and operating support ...
(Date:12/2/2016)... ... December 02, 2016 , ... The annual time frame to change Medicare health ... is ending December 7th. Currently-enrolled Medicare beneficiaries who are looking to switch from their ... D) need to make changes during this period order for their new policy to ...
(Date:12/2/2016)... , ... December 02, 2016 , ... ... Beverly Hills, California, will be included in the 2016 “Guide to America’s Top ... professionals based on the amalgamation of their education, experience, and professional associations. ...
(Date:12/2/2016)... ... December 02, 2016 , ... The PAINWeekEnd Regional ... Resort and Spa in Honolulu, offering local frontline clinicians the opportunity to extend ... , The demand for supplemental training related to pain management has surged dramatically ...
(Date:12/2/2016)... ... 2016 , ... Yisrayl Hawkins, at The House of Yahweh in Abilene, Texas, ... Bible Prophecy. Yisrayl says this generation, known as the Last Generation, started in 1934 ... details line up exactly with Bible Prophecy – a protected way for those who ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:12/2/2016)... NEW YORK , December 2, 2016 ... Extremity Braces & Support) is Expected to Gain a Significant ... Prone to Orthopedic Ailments  ... , , According ... Market Study on Medical Implants Sterile Packaging: Clamshell Product Type ...
(Date:12/2/2016)... 2016   CytoSorbents Corporation (NASDAQ: CTSO ... Union approved CytoSorb ® cytokine adsorber to treat ... announced that Dr. Phillip Chan , Chief Executive ... Micro Main Event investor conference held from December ... Sunset Boulevard Hotel in Los Angeles, California ...
(Date:12/2/2016)... , December 2, 2016 On Thursday, ... 1.36%; the Dow Jones Industrial Average edged 0.36% higher, to ... down 0.35%. Losses were broad based as six out of ... initiated research reports on the following Services equities: Myriad Genetics ... QGEN ), INC Research Holdings Inc. (NASDAQ: ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: