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Healthy Aging: Study Identifies Attributes Linked to Life Longevity

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Previous research has used a narrow definition of what aging can look like.

A recent study by researchers at the University of Toronto provided new insights into healthy aging by looking at two different groups of people in Canada: immigrants and Canadian-born seniors. The study authors identified several characteristics associated with positive experiences later in life that may contribute to healthy aging, redefining what it means to age well.

The results were recently published in the International Journal of Environmental Research. Defining successful aging

Mabel Ho, a doctoral researcher at the University of Toronto’s Factor-Inwentash School of Social Work and the Institute for the Course of Life and Aging, and a co-author of the study, told Medical News Today:

“The previous definition of successful aging was narrow and required seniors to be free of any disease – few people fit this definition.”

Ho explained that healthy aging means that individuals are not limited in their ability to carry out daily activities, whether they have chronic diseases or not.

Ho’s study defines healthy aging as having the following characteristics:

  1. ability to perform activities of daily living (ADL)
  2. ability to perform activities of daily living (IADL)
  3. no mental illness and memory problems
  4. no chronic disability
  5. personal opinion about happiness and physical health
  6. full public support
  7. “I think most people would agree that defining successful aging in terms of mental and physical functioning, social engagement, mental health and well-being makes a difference. . This is something I will strive for as I grow up.

Mabel Ho, PhD student and author of the study

Ritu Sadana, DSc, director of the Department of Aging and Health at the World Health Organization (WHO), who was not involved in the study, agreed that traditional values ​​of successful aging are limited.

“[WHO] does not define healthy aging as the absence of disease. It is a process and an ongoing thing,” Dr Sadana told MNT.

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He explained that WHO examines every aspect of aging in detail and studies actions that can improve its chances. Aging well in the elderly
For the study, researchers analyzed data from two separate periods of the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging (CLSA).

The data included 7,651 people who were 60 years of age or older when they began participating in the longitudinal study. Of the participants, 1,446 respondents were Canadian immigrants.

The study identified several characteristics associated with aging, including:

  • is small at the beginning of data collection
  • have a lot of money
  • married
  • don’t be overweight
  • never smoke
  • no trouble sleeping
  • no heart disease or arthritis
  • doing moderate or vigorous exercise

After adjusting for 20 factors, the results showed that Canadian-born people were about 24% more likely to age well than Canadian immigrants, even though most people in both groups met the study’s criteria for old age. “The book is interesting and adds to the scientific literature,” said Dr Sadana.

“It includes some aspects of healthy aging in its thinking and research, but it is also different from how WHO conceptualizes and operationalizes aging. It is good that researchers are considering ways to evaluate the prevalence of CLSA. »

Limitations of the study depend on the population
The authors note some limitations in the CLSA data on which their analysis is based.

The CLSA did not ask the participants some basic questions that could better capture individuals’ mental states, feelings of well-being, and spirituality. All of these things can be important indicators of the quality of life.

Canadian minorities were not sampled in the CLSA, so analysis of differences between them was not possible in the new study. At the same time, educated people are more represented. Four out of five people have a post-secondary certificate or diploma, while less than half of Canadians over 65 have a similar level of education. CLSA is also available in English and French, the two official languages ​​of Canada. Therefore, the CLSA does not document the experiences of immigrants who do not speak the language, one can imagine the biggest obstacle in the system that promotes healthy aging.

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Finally, another wave of data collection was not available for this study. They suggest that future research based on more data may provide better insights. Is there a secret to aging well?
Aging can be caused by many factors, such as genetics, lifestyle, environment, and access to affordable health care. In a 2016 research study, Dr. Sadana writes that healthy aging is about health equity. For healthy aging to be universal, social determinants and inequalities must be addressed. He said that the WHO wants to empower policy makers across different sectors and those working to improve health care services and care for the elderly – how to assess their condition and improve aging.

Esme Fuller-Thomson, Ph.D., director of the Institute for Life Course & Aging, professor at FIFSW and principal investigator of the new study, told MNT that there are many risk factors that many people can contribute to. promote healthy aging.

The good news in our study results is that there are many people who are overweight, who don’t smoke and who exercise regularly can age well. are three important things you can do to improve your chances of staying healthy as you age.

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