A recent study, conducted by Dr. Ya-Mei Chen at the National Taiwan University, showed that engagement in leisure-time activity (LTA) in later life is associated with a slower speed of progression toward functional disability. Through analyzing a population-representative dataset, this study assessed the trajectories of late-life LTA and functional disability in Taiwan from 1996 to 2007, and findings were published in March in the International Journal of Behavioral Medicine.
[Photo: Dr. Ya-Mei Chen]
“Both baseline and rate of change in leisure activities are important to older adults’ functional disability trends. In comparison to baseline level of LTA, increasing the engagement in LTA has more than three times the effect on slowing down the progression of functional disabilities. Thus, it is not only important for older adults to have a good baseline level of LTA, but it is also important to increase LTA engagement over time,” said Dr. Chen.
Through analyzing a population-representative dataset in Taiwan from 1996 to 2007, Dr. Chen further emphasized that both physically active LTAs, such as talking a walk, and sedentary LTAs, such as talking to friends, are important to older adults’ disability trajectories. Increasing engagement in a wider variety of LTA, including in activities such as talking to friends or reading, for example, could both be doable and also contribute to a slower increase in functional limitation. Even when older adults develop functional disabilities, they are still strongly encouraged to actively engage with LTA that they are able to participate in. They may benefit by slowing down the process of disability in the long run.
The average age of Taiwanese older adults at retirement is 57.8 years old, and only about two-thirds of them actively participate in LTAs. Promoting engagement in LTAs among retired older adults is an important and practical suggestion toward a successfully aging society.