We already know that a healthy lifestyle is a major factor in living a long, healthy life, but new studies show that having hobbies and staying socially active are equally important.
It’s long been known that a nutritious diet, regular exercise, and positive health choices such as not smoking all contribute to helping seniors feel younger and more energetic. Now, emerging research into longevity indicates that mental and social activity are just as critical as physical activity when it comes to healthy aging. Hobbies, leisure activities, and a rich social network are factors that correlate with living longer.
Healthy Lifestyle Choices for Seniors
What does it mean to have a healthy lifestyle as we age? Scientists are finding that if seniors want to live longer, it’s more than a matter of just staying fit and eating right—but we can’t forget that those are still important. In fact, for seniors in a recent study conducted in Sweden, those who were physically active—getting regular exercise through swimming, walking, or gymnastics—lived more than two years longer on average, and those who didn’t smoke lived a year longer than smokers. Diet is important too—those who are overweight or underweight are at greater risk of mortality as they age.
The Latest Findings on Longevity in Older Adults
In the study on Swedish seniors, scientists also looked at factors that haven’t been studied as closely; namely, whether mental activity and social engagement also affect longevity. A group of 1810 seniors age 75 and older were followed over an 18-year period and quizzed on their activities, and those who lived the longest had a number of characteristics in common:
- they got regular physical activity
- they didn’t smoke
- they engaged in a range of mental activities, social activities, and productive hobbies
- they had a rich social network of family and friends
All told, the seniors who were active physically, mentally and socially were the most likely to live past the age of 90, and lived an average of 5.4 years longer than inactive seniors, reports the Assisted Living Federation of America.
How Seniors Can Live Longer, Happier Lives
The researchers listed a wide range of leisure activities that are associated with health and longevity, aside from physical exercise. The National Institute on Aging further notes that these activities can increase seniors’ sense of well-being as well as lowering the risk of some health problems, including dementia.
- Mental activities: reading books or newspapers, doing crossword puzzles, drawing or painting, writing, studying, learning a musical instrument
- Social activities: going to concerts or performances, visiting art museums, traveling, playing cards or games, joining a senior center, starting a book club, taking a class
- Productive activities: gardening, cooking, knitting, getting a part-time job, volunteering at a library or hospital
How active are the seniors in your lives? How are you encouraging them to exercise, stay active and make social connections? We want to hear your suggestions in the comments!