Maintaining social relationships and mobility in old age are so important for general well-being that some elderly people will go to extreme lengths to keep active, according to research funded by the United Kingdom's Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). Surveys conducted during the development of a new measure of quality of life in older people found that some people in their nineties continued to play bowls with the aid of new knees, arm extensions or binoculars to help combat double vision.
According to the research, developed by Ann Bowling, Professor of Health Care for Older Adults at Kingston University London and St George's, University of London, another key to happiness in old age is resourcefulness. One 85-year-old widower told the researchers he had developed a wooden sock horn so he could dry between his toes after his wife, who used to help him because he couldn't bend down, had died and had even given some to other people with the same problem.
Outlining the research at a debate on how to measure what matters to people, Professor Bowling told an audience of 200 academics, policy-makers, government officials and representatives from voluntary groups that an essential requirement for coping with the challenges of older age was to build reserves of social support and self belief. "These social and psychological resources enable people to make the most of their skills, opportunities and abilities so they can compensate when they can no longer do things," she said.