The study identified attributes associated with longevity

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Researchers recently observed older adults in Canada and identified a unique set of characteristics among people who age optimally. Sonia Lekovic/Stoxy
  • A recent study challenged previous definitions of what constitutes healthy or successful aging it might look like taking a broader perspective.
  • To do this, researchers observed older adults in Canada and identified a unique set of attributes among people who age optimally.
  • The researchers also assessed how well people aged, despite all the chronic diseases that can develop with age.

Previous research has often used a narrow definition of what healthy aging might look like.

A recent study by researchers at the University of Toronto provided new insights into healthy aging by looking at two different demographics in Canada: immigrants and Canadian-born older adults.

The study authors identified several characteristics associated with positive experiences later in life that may contribute to healthy aging, thus redefining the definition of what it means to age successfully.

The findings were recently published in International Journal of Environmental Studies.

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

“Previous definitions of successful aging were very narrow and required older people to be free of any disease – very few people met that definition.”

Ho explained that successful aging means that people are not limited in their ability to carry out daily activities, regardless of whether they have a chronic illness.

Ho’s study defined healthy aging as having the following attributes:

“I think most people would agree that defining successful aging based on mental and physical functioning, social engagement, mental health and well-being makes intuitive sense. It’s certainly something I’ll aspire to when I’m older.”

– Mabel Ho, PhD student and lead author of the study

Ritu Sadana, Ph.D., head of the Division of Aging and Health at the World Health Organization (WHO), who was not involved in the study, agreed that traditional standards for successful aging are limited in scope.

“[The] WHO does not define healthy aging as disease-free aging. It is a process and a continuum,” said Dr. Sadana MNT.

She explained that the WHO is looking at each component of healthy aging in detail and researching actions that can make it more likely.

For the purpose of the study, the researchers analyzed data from two different time periods from the Canadian Longitudinal Study of Aging (CLSA).

The data included 7,651 individuals 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 that are associated with healthy aging, including individuals who:

  • were younger at the start of data collection
  • had higher incomes
  • were married
  • without obesity
  • I have never smoked
  • had no trouble sleeping
  • he had no heart disease or arthritis
  • engaged in moderate or vigorous physical activity

After adjusting for 20 factors, the findings showed that Canadian-born people were about 24 percent more likely to age successfully than Canadian immigrants — even though most people in both groups met the study’s standards for healthy aging.

“The paper is interesting and adds to the scientific literature,” said Dr. Sadana.

“It incorporates some elements of healthy aging in its concepts and analysis, but also differs from the way WHO conceptualizes and implements healthy ageing. It is great that researchers are considering ways to analyze the richness of CLSA.

The authors note some limitations in the CLSA data on which their analysis is based.

The CLSA did not ask participants some key questions that could more accurately capture individuals’ mental state, sense of well-being, and spiritual perspective. All of these can be important indicators of quality of life.

Canadian minorities were underrepresented in the CLSA, so analysis of differences between them was not possible in the new study.

At the same time, well-educated people were overrepresented. Four out of five people had a post-secondary diploma or degree, while less than half of Canadians over the age of 65 had a similar level of education.

CLSA was also held in English and French, Canada’s two official languages. Thus, the CLSA does not record the experiences of immigrants who speak neither language, a group that may face the greatest systemic barriers to healthy aging.

Finally, additional waves of data collection were not available for this study. They suggest that future analyzes based on more data may yield richer insights.

Healthy aging can be the result of many factors, such as a person’s genetics, lifestyle, environment, and access to affordable health care.

In a 2016 research review, Dr. Sadana wrote that healthy aging is a health equity issue. For healthy aging to exist globally, social determinants and inequalities must also be addressed.

The WHO, she said, aims to “empower policymakers across multiple sectors, as well as those working to improve coordinated health and aged care services – on how they can analyze their context and improve healthy ageing.” .

Esme Fuller-Thomson, PhD, director of the Life Cycle and Aging Institute, professor at FIFSW and senior investigator of the new study, said MNT There are several modifiable risk factors available to most people that can help promote successful aging:

“The good news in our study results is that there were a few individuals who were at a healthy weight, were non-smokers and exercised regularly, and were much more likely to age successfully. While you can’t change your age or your genes, here are three important things you can do to improve the likelihood of staying in optimal health as you age.

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