Socially Active Elders Are Happier
The last days for many seniors are dire times, filled with increasing declines in health and a lost sense of well-being.
But a study published in Psychology and Aging suggests a way to help avoid that sad ending. Research indicated that staying active socially – even in the face of health challenges – may reduce and delay the onset of late-life decline.
The team analyzed data obtained 2-4 years before death, from over 2,900 people who were part of the nationwide German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP) Study. The participants (48% female) were of an average age of 74 when they died.
The data included self-rated assessments of well-being, social activity, social goals and family goals during the last few years of the participants’ lives.
Participants answered questions about how satisfied they were with their lives overall, how much they participated in social activity, how important social activity was to them, and how much they valued their marriage or their relationships with their children.
The result: Being socially active and having social goals were linked to higher well-being or life-satisfaction late in life, but having family goals was not. The link was independent of other factors captured by the SOEP study that might play a role – such as age at death, gender, education and health status (such as disability and hospital admissions).
The study authors noted that a socially engaged lifestyle often involves cognitive stimulation and physical activity, which may serve well in fighting off neurological and physical factors underlying cognitive decline.