To be happy as well as healthy in old age, be like Beryl Wyld.
- An international team studied a group of ageing Australians and their activities
- The group found maintaining engagement with activities was essential
- The more meaningful the activity, the better it was for emotional wellbeing
New research shows the 93-year-old Salvation Army volunteer is following the right approach for emotional as well as physical health, by maintaining engagement with activities she cares about.
By tailoring her work in the Salvos Store to her capabilities, Mrs Wyld has managed to maintain her involvement for 50 years.
“I like to meet people, I like to greet people … it’s no good staying in the house on your own, you can get bored stiff,” she said.
“[I get] a lot of pleasure and company and happiness.”
An international team of researchers examined the activities of Australians aged over 84, then asked how they affected their emotional experience.
“What we found was that meaningful activities, those things that had a greater sense of personal meaning for the study were also associated with better quality of emotion,” lead author Tim Windsor, from Flinders University, told the ABC.
The researchers used data from a long-term study of ageing Australians — the Australian Daily Life Time-Sampling module of the Australian Longitudinal Study of Ageing — to see the impact of, leisure, domestic, physical and cognitive activities on people’s emotions.
They included things like exercise, housework, reading and volunteering, and found the activities that produced the most positive emotions were those that people thought were important.
Social sport, like the bi-weekly table tennis sessions at the Blackwood Baptist Church, was among the activities that produced positive emotional experiences for older people.
“I think it’s good for the whole soul and spirit.”
But the experts found activities that were too challenging produced negative emotions.
“That’s not to say that we should be avoiding challenging activities altogether as we get older, but we just need to find that right balance so that we’re doing enough to stay engaged, that allow us to stay physically active but just not to a point where it’s going to overburden us and create problems,” Associate Professor Windsor said.
The researchers said the increasing lifespans of people around the world, especially in Australia, made their findings important.
Mrs Wyld agreed, and urged more people her age to consider volunteering or another meaningful new activity.
“Go ahead and do it,” she said.
“Don’t give up. Because I expect to keep going for a little while yet.”