Time and health: growing older healthily

Joeri Minnen 25 March 2022

Within the framework of the Sense of Life and Retirement workshop at Howest College in Bruges, Theun Pieter van Tienoven gave a guest lecture on healthy ageing. He stressed the importance of time research to measure (the consequences of) active participation of people over 65.

Growing older goes hand in hand with changing or disappearing social roles. Parenthood changes when children leave home or have children themselves. At retirement, the social context of work largely disappears. The risk of social exclusion increases. Active participation, such as informal help, voluntary work or continuing to work after 65, would be a remedy to this. In addition, it can take the pressure off the care services created by an ageing population because it is assumed that active participation equals healthy ageing.

Time allocation research finds little evidence for this. In fact, informal helping (read: caring for grandchildren) seems to be negatively associated with healthy ageing. Structural care for grandchildren leads to more stress for grandparents. Only being able to work, do voluntary work or help out informally at an older age (75+) is positively linked to healthy ageing. Of course, the link seems to have to be interpreted rather the other way round: healthy older people remain participative for longer.

Healthy ageing starts long before retirement. People who participate actively at a younger age will continue to do so in later life. Indeed: learning young is doing old.

The guest lecture was partly based on an article published in the scientific journal Social Indicators Research and can be downloaded here.



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