Social & Productive Activity Just As Important as Physical Activity for Decreasing Senior Mortality
Many studies have linked overall fitness and exercise to longer life spans and a better quality of life as we age. (See How to Facilitate Recreation and Activities for the Elderly)
However, through accident, disease or poor lifestyle choices (e.g., smoking, poor diet), many seniors cannot exercise as much as they would like or as much as is desirable (see FamilyDoctor.org, Exercise and Seniors).
Vital Role of Social & Productive Activities on Senior Life Spans
However, this does not leave these seniors out on a limb when comes to increasing their life spans and quality of life. Other factors, such as social and productive-creative activities can often make up for a lack of exercise. Thomas Glass, an assistant professor in Harvard University School of Public Health, found that engaging in “social” activities, such as going to the movies, theatre, sporting, sightseeing and traveling, or “productive” activities, such as regular employment, gardening, volunteer work, housework and shopping decreased senior mortality as much as fitness activity alone. (See: Population based study of social and productive activities as predictors of survival among elderly Americans, BMJ, 1999; 319:478).
While Chris Riddoch, Senior Lecturer at the University of Bristol, suggest that Glass may have confounded the effects of social and productive activities with physical activities (for example, going out to see a film or gardening can involve “significant levels of incidental physical activity”), and there are clearly social benefits of physical activity, Glass and his colleagues nevertheless urge doctors, caregivers and assistant living facilities to encourage social and productive activities in their elderly patients. Says Dr. Glass: “Such activities can function as ‘powerful new interventions’ to promote the health and longevity of elderly patients.”
Take Away Messages from the Senior Social & Productive Activities BMJ Study
- Little is known about predictors of survival among elderly people
- Physical activity is clearly good for health, but the potential benefits of social activities have not been studied
- Social and productive activities are as effective as fitness activities in lowering the risk of death
- Enhanced social activities may help to increase the quality and length of life
- Social, productive and fitness activities have been confused
- In support of meaningful occupation for the elderly
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