Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Older Americans Are More Socially Engaged Than Many People May Think

Date:
April 17, 2008
Source:
University of Chicago
Summary:
Older people remain vital and active members of society as they age, despite a popular notion that they are more likely to be socially isolated. A research team found that although older individuals have fewer intimate relationships, they may respond to social loss by becoming more likely to volunteer, attend religious services and spend time with their neighbors than those in their 50s.

A new University of Chicago study shows that older people remain vital and active members of society as they age, despite a popular notion that they are more likely to be socially isolated.

A research team found that although older individuals have fewer intimate relationships, they may respond to social loss by becoming more likely to volunteer, attend religious services and spend time with their neighbors than those in their 50s.

"A person's social network will inevitably shrink a little as they retire, as they begin to experience bereavements, and so on. That is where the stereotype comes from," said University researcher Benjamin Cornwell.

"But that stereotypical image of the 'isolated elderly' really falls apart when we broaden our conception of what social connectedness is. In our study, we looked at other forms of social involvement as well and found that older adults are more socially engaged in the community than we thought," he said. The study, the first systematic, nationally representative look at both social networks and community involvement among older Americans, revealed these details of social involvement:

  • About three-quarters of older adults between the ages of 57 and 85 socialize with their neighbors, attend religious services, volunteer or attend meetings of other organized groups on at least a weekly basis. Those in their 80s were twice as likely as those in their 50s to engage in one of these activities.
  • Whereas about 50 percent of people in their 70s and 80s socialize with neighbors on at least a weekly basis, about 40 percent of people in their 50s and 60s do. In fact, people in their early 80s are more than twice as likely to socialize with their neighbors than people in their late 50s.
  • About 50 percent of those in their 70s and 80s attend religious services on at least a weekly basis, compared to 40 percent of people in their 50s and 60s. People in their 70s are twice as likely to attend religious services on at least a weekly basis as people in their late 50s, and those in their 80s are nearly 50 percent more likely to do so.
  • About 22 percent of people in their 70s and 80s volunteer on a weekly basis, compared to about 17 percent of those in their older 50s. People in their 70s and 80s are about 36 percent more likely to volunteer on at least a weekly basis than people in their 50s.

The study was based on in-home interviews with 3,005 people, ages 57 to 85, between July 2005 and March 2006, as part of the National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project supported by the National Institutes of Health. The National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago conducted the survey.

Edward O. Laumann of the University of Chicago said the research provides a new way of looking at how people relate to society as they age. Additional time spent on social activities isn't necessarily a response to older Americans having more time, he said, or the result of a different perspective among older Americans as compared with baby boomers, many of whom are in their late 50s.

"In this light, we may better understand the greater involvement of the oldest adults in civic activities not as an outcome of generational differences in commitment to community or civic spirit, but as an effort to regain control over their social environments," he said.

Cornwell said, "The new image of the older American is this: Far from being helpless isolates, they are actually extraordinary adaptive creatures. Not only are older adults exceptionally adaptive to social loss, but we speculate that they may also be more proactive than younger adults in establishing ties to the community. In short, they appear to be more socially engaged."

Cornwell, Postdoctoral Fellow in the Center on Demography and Economics of Aging at the University of Chicago, is the lead author of the paper, "The Social Connectedness of Older Adults: A National Profile," published in the April issue of the American Sociological Review. Other authors are Edward O. Laumann, the George Herbert Mead Distinguished Service Professor of Sociology at the University of Chicago, and L. Philip Schumm, Senior Biostatistician in the Department of Health Studies at the University of Chicago.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Chicago. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Chicago. "Older Americans Are More Socially Engaged Than Many People May Think." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 April 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080416114410.htm>.
University of Chicago. (2008, April 17). Older Americans Are More Socially Engaged Than Many People May Think. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080416114410.htm
University of Chicago. "Older Americans Are More Socially Engaged Than Many People May Think." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080416114410.htm (accessed July 23, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Why Do People Believe We Only Use 10 Percent Of Our Brains?

Why Do People Believe We Only Use 10 Percent Of Our Brains?

Newsy (July 22, 2014) The new sci-fi thriller "Lucy" is making people question whether we really use all our brainpower. But, as scientists have insisted for years, we do. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Do Obese Women Have 'Food Learning Impairment'?

Do Obese Women Have 'Food Learning Impairment'?

Newsy (July 18, 2014) Yale researchers tested 135 men and women, and it was only obese women who were deemed to have "impaired associative learning." Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Does Mixing Alcohol and Energy Drinks Boost Urge To Drink?

Does Mixing Alcohol and Energy Drinks Boost Urge To Drink?

Newsy (July 18, 2014) A new study suggests that mixing alcohol with energy drinks makes you want to keep the party going. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Pot Cooking Class Teaches Responsible Eating

Pot Cooking Class Teaches Responsible Eating

AP (July 18, 2014) Following the nationwide trend of eased restrictions on marijuana use, pot edibles are growing in popularity. One Boston-area cooking class is teaching people how to eat pot responsibly. (July 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins