Volunteering, Paid Work Help Fight Frailty, Study Shows

by Lois Etienne on March 14, 2011

in Senior Health and Safety

Q.  As a typically active woman in my early 70s, I’m finding that it’s harder to get motivated to do much of anything.  Is it really all that important?

In as word – yes!  Add to a growing list another study that confirms the premise that keeping the mind and body active appears to slow many of the signs and consequences of aging.  This research finds that volunteering seems to produce the best results, however, paid work was a benefit as well.

Frailty is a geriatric condition marked by weight loss, low energy and strength, and low physical activity.  UCLA researchers followed 1,072 healthy adults aged 70 to 79 between 1988 and 1991 to determine if productive activities – specifically volunteering, paid work and child care – prevent the onset of frailty.

At the beginning of the study, 28 percent of participants volunteered, 25 percent performed child care duties and 19 percent worked for pay.  After three years, participants in all three activities were found to be less likely to become frail.  After accounting for levels of physical and cognitive function, however, only volunteering was associated with lower rates of frailty.

Why not contact your local church or synagogue, senior center or Area Agency on Aging, about volunteer opportunities.

If you would like to know more about how to prevent frailty, visit www.getmommoving.com, Home Instead Senior Care’s public education campaign that is geared toward keeping seniors active and healthy.

Following, from the company’s campaign, are the warning signs of frailty:

Change. If you’ve always been interested in talking to the neighbors, reading the newspaper, or volunteering, but you’re withdrawing from those interests, see a doctor.

Inactivity. If you’re suddenly much less active than usual, take some time to consider why.

Slowing down. If you used to have a bounce in your step and now, suddenly, you trudge along, that’s a bad sign that needs to be addressed.

Loss of appetite and weight. If you’ve enjoyed cooking and always had a healthy appetite, but seem to have lost interest in food, you’re right to be concerned.

Unsteadiness. Loss of balance comes with aging, but increasing unsteadiness is a sign that something could be wrong.

For more information about the study, log on to http://newsroom.ucla.edu/portal/ucla/volunteering-may-prevent-the-elderly-150545.aspx

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