NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Think about your address, your zip code. Maybe you’re there because you moved for work, or your family has never known another one, or maybe you’re there because you had no where else to go.
Your zip code might be one of the major factors that affects how long you live alone.
Yale professor and geriatrician Dr. Thomas Gill said, “Like many studies one finding leads to the next.”
Since 1992, Dr. Gill has been working with his research team to follow a group more than 750 seniors. They interview them monthly and document changes in their functions. This study yielded over 100 papers.
The latest study paired their research with what’s called the Area Deprivation Index, a tool by the University of Wisconsin that quantifies the level of advantage or disadvantage a neighborhood has down to the zip code.
Dr. Gill stated that they compared the lives of those who live in poorer neighborhoods to those who live in better neighborhoods. “They found some striking findings.”
They found that people who lived in more affluent neighborhoods were more likely to remain independent for longer periods of time than those who lived in less privileged neighborhoods.
They judge independence on “the big four” – whether they can walk, bathe, get in and out of a chair, and dress independently.
Dr. Gill envisions these findings being used to inform both policies (such as making the case for more housing in disadvantaged areas or clinical applications).
He stated that clinicians need to be aware that these poor outcomes are not due to individual decisions. However, there is an overlay of disadvantage at a greater level, in a neighbourhood, that presents really great challenges.
It can be devastating for a family’s financial health if an older adult loses their independence. A 2015 survey found that 36% caregivers had moderate to high financial strain and were spending thousands each year out of pocket.
How can you prevent your independence from being lost? Dr. Gill suggests that you get 150 minutes of exercise per week. You can start as soon as you are able. It can be as simple and easy as walking.
Dr. Gill stated that people who are able to incorporate physical activity into their daily activities and their week to weeks, even when they retire, will likely be able to maintain these habits for the future.
This is the complete list.