Engaging in social activities like participating in hobby clubs or volunteer groups may help the elderly relieve the stress of loneliness as well as slow down the decline in their ability to manage daily activities crucial to an individuals’ independence and quality of life, say researchers.
The study, led by a team of researchers from the Nara Medical University in Japan, found that elderly men and women who participated in social activities were less likely to experience a decline in their ability to perform daily functions.
“Participation in a variety of different types of social activities was associated with change in IADLs (instrumental activities of daily living) over the three years of this study in women, and participation in hobby clubs was associated with change in IADLs in men and women,” said the study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
Losing a spouse is considered a stressful experience that may speed up an older adult’s functional decline.
But participating in social activities may help relieve the stress of loneliness – and that might help an older adult maintain his or her ability to function, the researchers said.
Participating in social activities allows older adults to have a meaningful role in society, giving them a sense of value and belonging. This sense of value may motivate older adults to maintain their ability to function, they added.
Further, the researchers found that older adults who experienced a decline in their ability to perform daily activities were more likely to use medications, describe their health status as poor, experience depression, and have trouble with memory or making decisions compared to those who maintained their ability to function well.
Such people also were less likely to participate in hobby clubs or volunteer groups versus those who could still perform simple activities of daily living.
When older adults begin having trouble managing these activities by themselves, their risks for falls, hospitalisation, and even death can increase.
Healthcare professionals should be aware of older adults’ social activity participation – or lack of it – to help lessen the likelihood of functional decline, the researchers suggested.