Enjoyment of Life Leads to Longer Survival Among Seniors

Early morning - a bird relaxing. (Dr. Noorali Bharwani)
Early morning - a bird relaxing. (Dr. Noorali Bharwani)

“Old age ain’t no place for sissies,” said Bette Davis, an American actress. Keeping that in mind there is a continuous effort to improve the quality of life of seniors. Pills and more pills is not always the best way to make life of seniors healthy and functional.

A research article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ March 4, 2014) titled Enjoyment of life and declining physical function at older ages says, “Positive affective well-being (i.e. feelings of happiness and enjoyment) has been associated with longer survival and reduced incidence of serious illness.”

The authors of the article go on to say that their objective was to discover whether enjoyment of life also predicted a reduced risk of functional impairment over an 8-year period in a large population sample.

This was a prospective study involving 3199 men and women aged 60-years or older from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. The results provided evidence that reduced enjoyment of life may be related to the future disability and mobility of older people. Researchers obtained similar results when they limited analyses to participants younger than 70-years at baseline.

Studies have also shown that when seniors are having a good time their life is associated with longer survival and reduced incidence of coronary heart disease and stroke. That means if a senior is not happy then there is a decline in physical function. This predicts early death. That is not good.

The authors looked into several lifestyle parameters including whether the participants enjoy the things that they do, enjoy being in the company of others, whether they look back on life with a sense of happiness and feel full of energy on a regular basis.

After eight-year-study, the authors found greater enjoyment of life was associated with reduced risk of developing impaired activities of daily living and with a slower decline in walking speed.

Slow walking speed was considered an early marker of disability and frailty, as well as a predictor of dementia, admission to a long-term health facility and death. That does not sound good either.

After analysing their research results, the authors came to the conclusion, “Our results provide further evidence that enjoyment of life is relevant to the future disability and mobility of older people. Efforts to enhance well-being at older ages may have benefits to society and health care systems.” A CMAJ Editor’s comment on the article says the degree of enjoyment of life remains an important predictor of future functionality, indicating the power of a positive outlook on life.

The message is quite simple and clear. Growing older gracefully and in good health requires attention and work. As Bernard Baruch, an American financier said, “Old age is always 15 years older than I am.” He also said that one of the secrets of a long and fruitful life is to forgive everybody, everything, every night before you go to bed. Can we do that? Go have fun now.

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