New UK research has found that staying active socially later in life could be the key to a healthier old age.
The new Index of Wellbeing in Later Life, developed by charity Age UK along with the University of Southampton, analyzed data from 15,000 people aged 60 and over to measure the well-being of the UK's older population.
Together the researchers looked at five key areas of people's lives -- social, personal, health, financial and environmental.
Although there was no one "magic bullet" that benefited health, the results showed that taking part in various social activities such as going to a cinema, museum or historical site, taking part in arts events, being a member of a social or sports club, or engaging in a community or voluntary group could all have a beneficial effect in contributing to a person's sense of well-being, giving them a higher score on the Index.
The Index also found that 'creative activities' were particularly beneficial, with dancing, playing a musical instrument, visiting museums, photography, singing, painting, and writing having the most direct influence.
Other factors that positively influenced well-being included having an open personality, being willing to try out new things, having a good social network and lots of close relationships, and being physically active.
As well as being socially active and having good friendships, those who scored best in the Index -- in the top 20 percent -- also had good thinking skills, didn't live alone, and didn't have serious money worries.
Those who scored in the bottom 20 percent were the opposite. These people lived alone, had a poor social network -- with one in eight reporting they had no friends at all -- had fewer qualifications, were not physically active, had long-standing illnesses, and many -- one in four -- were on an income-related benefit.
The average ages for those in the top 20 percent and the bottom 20 percent were very similar, at 70 and 71 years respectively.
Commenting on the findings, Professor of International Social Policy at the University of Southampton, Asghar Zaidi, who developed the methodology behind the Index, said, "We live in an extraordinary time with increasing numbers of us in the UK living longer than ever imagined before. On the one hand, many can celebrate living financially secure, active, engaged and healthy lives for longer, but we also know living longer exposes many other older people to huge vulnerabilities."
The Index now highlights some of the changes that could improve the quality of life and well-being of older people as populations continue to live longer than ever, with the number of people aged 60 and over in the UK expected to rise to over 20 million by 2030.
Further information on the findings can be found online.