Housework helps older adults with physical restrictions stay fit

By STTI Editors | 4/27/2015
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Clean environment is therapeutic.

Older adults who keep a clean and orderly home tend to feel emotionally and physically better after tackling house chores because of the exercise required to get the job done, according to new findings by a Case Western Reserve University School of Nursing researcher.
 
“Housecleaning kept them up and moving,” says Kathy D. Wright, PhD, RN, CNS, a postdoctoral KL2 Scholar at the university’s Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing. “A clean environment is therapeutic.”
 
Wright and a research team set out to test a theory called House’s Conceptual Framework for Understanding Social Inequalities in Health and Aging. It’s considered a blueprint for understanding how factors such as income, education, environment, and health behaviors such as smoking and exercise influence an older person’s health.
 
The study’s 337 participants, from 65 to 94 years old, had to have at least one chronic illness; be enrolled in both Medicare and Medicaid; have physical restrictions that prevented them from doing at least one basic daily task, such as bathing and dressing; and be unable to manage such responsibilities as taking medicines, handling finances, or accessing transportation. All lived in Ohio’s Summit and Portage counties.
 
Participants discussed their backgrounds and physical and emotional well-being in interviews. The researchers then used the University of Utah’s Digit Lab, where Wright earned her doctorate degree while working for the Summa Health System, to link geographic and socioeconomic information on the neighborhoods with health data.
 
Wright says she was surprised to learn that doing housework and maintaining their property affected participants’ physical and mental well-being more than such factors as neighborhood or income.
 
“What I found was that neighborhood poverty did not directly affect mental or physical health,” she says.
 
The study provided evidence that Wright had observed in her visits: People living in a chaotic environment seemed less satisfied than those in a place that was neat and tidy.
 
Wright hopes the study shows how important it is 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.
 
Findings by Wright and her team were reported in a recent Geriatric Nursing article, “Factors that influence physical function and emotional well-being among Medicare-Medicaid enrollees.”
 
Source: Case Western Reserve University
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