UF study: Healthy aging depends on social as well as physical activity

GAINESVILLE, Fla. --- Pressing the flesh may be just as important as pumping iron if you want to age gracefully and healthily, a new University of Florida study suggests.

More than plain physical activity, human interaction from activities such as entertaining at home, taking day trips and getting involved with religious functions lead to more satisfaction with life as people get older, the study found.

Older people often feel isolated, just as mothers do when their babies are born, said Heather Gibson, a professor in UFs department of recreation, parks and tourism and a core faculty member in the Institute on Aging. Whether its joining a senior center or having a group to hang out with, doing certain things makes their lives more fulfilling.

Having people to talk to and do things with is important for people of all stages of life, but we found its particularly true for older adults, she said.

Gibson and Candace Ashton-Shaeffer, also a professor in UFs department of recreation, parks and tourism, and an Institute on Aging faculty member, surveyed 157 retired women in Florida 55 and older about their leisure activities. In summer 2001, they interviewed 24 of those women about the importance of leisure in their lives. The participants, obtained from a commercial data base company, represent all geographic regions of the state.

The universal stereotype of senior citizens playing Bingo proved groundless, as only 4 percent of the women surveyed said they played the game, Ashton-Shaeffer said. There are people who play Bingo and take it very seriously, but its a small number of people who do it on a regular basis and make it a normal part of their lives, she said.

Nor did handiwork emerge as a leading hobby among older women. Few sewed (4 percent) or knitted (6 percent), she said.

Far more common were reading (71 percent) and pursuing religious activities (53 percent), Ashton-Shaeffer said. Other popular pastimes included bi

Contact: Heather Gibson
University of Florida

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