Staying social may keep
seniors' motor skills sharp
Socializing may help elderly people to ward off some of the physical damage of aging, a new study suggests.
In a recent article in Archives of Internal Medicine, researchers reported that among people aged 60 to 90, each point decrease in a five-point scale measuring frequency of social activity was associated with about 33 per cent faster rate of decline in motor function.
"These data raise the possibility that social engagement can slow motor function decline and possibly delay adverse health outcomes from such decline," Dr. Aron Buchman and colleagues at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago concluded, noting more research is needed to confirm if there is a cause-and-effect relationship.
The study looked at the social activities and decline in motor function of 906 older adults who were followed for about five years.
None of the participants had a history of Parkinson's disease, stroke, or dementia when the study began.
Researchers evaluated motor function by testing:
- Grip and pinch strength.
- Ability to balance on one leg.
- Skill at placing pegs on a board in 30 seconds.
- Ability to walk in a line, heel to toe.
- Ability to tap index fingers for 10 seconds on each side.
Participants also filled out a survey to gauge their level of social activity, such as going to restaurants, visiting relatives or friends, volunteering, or attending religious services.
The link between social activity and motor decline did not vary after taking into account factors such as body composition and chronic medical conditions.
A single point decrease in social activity score was the same as being about five years older at baseline, the researchers said.
This translates to about a 40 per cent higher risk of death and 65 per cent higher risk of disability, they added.
Previous studies have suggested that people who socialize may be less likely to develop dementia.
The research was funded by the National Institute on Aging, Illinois Department of Public Health and the Robert C. Borwell Endowment Fund.