Social engagement improves quality of life among ageing - study

New research shows that quality of life continues to improve with age and more so if social engagement is strong.

The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing report, which is a study of people over the age of 50, found quality of life increases to a peak at age 70 and then gradually starts to decline.

It found that those who have a high level of social integration have better physical and mental health.

31% of women reported positive supportive friendships compared to 16% of men.

Over half of older adults reported problematic housing conditions.

The research also found that almost 60% of people over the age of 50 are not taking the minimum requirement of exercise, which is 150 minutes of brisk walking every week.

The report used data collected from 2009 to 2016.

Lead researcher on the study, Professor Rose Anne Kenny from Trinity College, said there are number of factors for life getting better after 50, such as looming retirement, more time to share with friends and the fact that children are older and mortgages are paid down.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Prof Kenny added that social engagement is "incredibly important" to a high quality of life.

Professor Kenny said the effect of worthwhile friendships and relationships subdues the ageing effects. 

Volunteering, social engagement and interaction with other people can keep the effects at bay, she said.

Professor Kenny said that, at a societal level, we need to start thinking about how we engage people more and encourage them to engage ahead of retirement.

Compulsory retirement, she said, was not good. 

She warned that over half of Ireland's over-50 population were not taking the minimum amount of exercise for heart health. 

Professor Kenny said the study also found there was an "all around need'"for home care for older people.

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