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Housework keeps older adults ‘physically and emotionally fit’


Older adults who get exercise through housework tend to feel emotionally and physically better than those who do not tackle household chores, according to US nurse researchers.

Researchers tested a theory called House’s Conceptual Framework for Understanding Social Inequalities in Health and Aging – considered a blueprint for understanding how different factors influence an older person’s health.

“House cleaning kept them up and moving. A clean environment is therapeutic”

Kathy Wright

The study’s 337 participants, aged 65-94, had at least one chronic condition. They also had physical restrictions that prevented them from doing at least one basic daily task, such as bathing and dressing, and were unable to manage responsibilities like taking medicines, handling finances or accessing transportation.

The researchers, from Case Western Reserve University’s school of nursing, linked geographic and socioeconomic information on the neighbourhoods in which the participants lived with health data.

Lead study author Kathy Wright said she was surprised to find that housework and maintaining property affected the participants’ physical and mental wellbeing more than factors such as neighbourhood or income.

“What I found was that neighbourhood poverty did not directly affect mental or physical health,” she said.

Ms Wright said the study highlighted how important it was for sedentary older adults with disabilities and chronic illnesses to continue physical activities, such as doing reaching exercises while sitting, arm curls and standing up and sitting down in a chair.

“House cleaning kept them up and moving,” she said. “A clean environment is therapeutic.”

The study findings have been published in the journal Geriatric Nursing.


Readers' comments (4)

  • Agree with this wholeheartedly BUT there are the occasional duties that are more than difficult for older folk to perform. Vacuuming is one and washing floors is another (and dangerous) chore.
    Also the bathing or assisting bathing of a spouse. Whilst some people can do their own bathing, assisting a partner can be heavy and dangerous as well.
    Thorough assessment is necessary but certainly a very worthwhile duty.

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  • michael stone

    I'm not quite old enough to fit the age-range of the study, and I don't have a physical problem which prevents me from doing housework.

    But I am decidedly 'not very bothered by' housework, and I think it would definitely be possible for me 'to feel emotionally and physically better'.

    So although my observation is 'in reverse' compared to the claim of the study, the study is probably correct - but knowing that, isn't likely to make me attach more importance to 'doing housework' myself.

    Mind you, I've got a suspicion, that what matters most is 'just doing something' - I think 'retaining an interest' is probably very beneficial as people get older, and it perhaps doesn't matter so much what the interest/activity actually is ?

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  • michael stone | 19-Apr-2015 12:51 pm

    give it a whirl. it might detract you from trolling!

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  • michael stone

    Anonymous | 19-Apr-2015 7:20 pm

    Just to be clear, do you use 'trolling' in the sense that I would use 'contributing to a discussion' ?

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