Health interventions can help oldies age well

NEW research shows that factors contributing to wellbeing in older people differ for men and women.

Professor Hal Kendig, from the Centre for Research on Aging Health and Wellbeing and the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Population Aging Research said for years the question of what it is to age well has been addressed by academics and experts.

"However, we still have much to learn about what factors influence wellbeing as we age and whether they are different for men and women."

Co-directors of the study, Professor Kendig based at the Australian National University, and Professor Colette Browning from Monash University, aim to use the findings to gain a deeper understanding of factors that contribute to aging well.

"Identifying factors that contribute to aging well for men and women is the first step to designing health promotion and interventions that improve everyone's ability to age well," Professor Kendig said.

In the Melbourne Longitudinal Studies on Healthy Aging program, on which the new research is based, aging well was defined as living independently in the community and being in good physical and psychological health.

The study identifies different risk factors for men and women.

"We found that perceived strain, lower levels of social activity, perceived inadequacy of social activity, low perceived social support and being a current smoker were key risk factors in men for not aging well," Professor Browning said.

"The risk factors for women were different: incontinence, low Body Mass Index and lower physical activity."

She said designing health promotion and interventions that cater to the needs of men and women separately was important to ensure older people can age well according to the individual.