In Older Adults, Social Participation Promotes Optimal Ageing: Study

    Inam Ansari
    June8/ 2023
    Last Updated:

    Older Adults

    Toronto (Canada): Researchers found higher levels of social participation were associated with successful ageing in later life. They discovered that those who participated in volunteer work and recreational activities were more likely to maintain excellent health over the course of the three-year study and were less likely to develop physical, cognitive, mental, or emotional problems.
    The study was published in 'The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.'
    Successful ageing was defined by the researchers as the absence of any serious physical, cognitive, mental, or emotional conditions that interfere with daily activities, as well as high levels of self-reported happiness, good physical health, and mental health. At the start of the study, the researchers only included participants who were successfully ageing. The goal was to see if social participation was related to the likelihood of maintaining excellent health. Approximately 72% of these respondents who participated in volunteer or recreational activities at the start of the study were still ageing successfully three years later. However, only two-thirds of those who were not participating in these activities were ageing successfully at the end of the study. After taking into account a wide range of sociodemographic characteristics, the findings indicated that respondents who participated in recreational activities and volunteer or charity work were 15% and 17% more likely to maintain excellent health across the study, respectively.
    "Although the study's observational nature prohibits the determination of causality, it makes intuitive sense that social activity is associated with successful ageing," says first author, Mabel Ho, a doctoral candidate at the University of Toronto's Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work (FIFSW) and the Institute of Life Course and Aging. "Being socially active is important no matter how old we are. Feeling connected and engaged can boost our mood, reduce our sense of loneliness and isolation, and improve our mental health and overall health."
    Some medical professionals are now prescribing social activities for their patients, called 'social prescribing', a non-pharmacological intervention that integrates primary care with community services. Social prescribing can be used to encourage older adults to engage in volunteering and recreational activities.
    "It is encouraging that there are ways to support our physical, cognitive, mental, and emotional well-being as we age. This is wonderful news for older adults and their families who may anticipate that precipitous decline is inevitable with age," says senior author Esme Fuller-Thomson, Director of the Institute for Life Course & Aging and Professor at the University of Toronto's Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work. "It is important for older adults, families, practitioners, policymakers, and researchers to work together to create an environment that supports a vibrant and healthy later life." —ANI