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Elderly men and woman stretching together at United Hebrew elderly care home.

Study: Older Americans Are Sitting Way Too Much, and Computers Are to Blame

Despite public health warnings that “sitting is the new smoking,” and a sedentary lifestyle poses risks to your health, Americans — including older adults age 65 and older — are spending more time sitting now than they did in 2001, according to a new study.

Researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis found that while the time spent watching television remained relatively stable over the 15 years of the study (84% of seniors spend two hours a day or more), computer/screen time went up across all age groups.

In 2003-2004, 15.4 percent of older adults spent an hour or more per day in front of the computer. By 2015-2016, the most recent year studied, 53.4% of adults aged 65 or more years were spending at least an hour a day in front of the computer.

The study analyzed responses from more than 51,000 participants in the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 2001 and 2016, surveys by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which track health trends.

Overall, the researchers found, those aged 65 or more years sit about 6.1 hours per day, according to a McKnight’s Senior Living report on the study.

“Until now, we haven’t had data demonstrating the amount of time most Americans spend sitting watching TV or doing other sedentary activities,” says Yin Cao, ScD, MPH, the lead author in the study. “Now that we have a baseline, we can look at trends over time and see whether different interventions or public health initiatives are effective.

So, what can be done to get older adults off of the couch?

Activity programs keep seniors moving

“While technology offers wonderful benefits for our residents, such as providing new ways to keep in touch with loved ones, we still strive to keep them as active as possible,” says Rita Mabli, president/CEO of United Hebrew. “Of course, it’s not always possible for all of our residents to engage in high impact activity, so we provide an array of physical activities across our entire campus.”

Active programs include:

  • Dance therapy
  • Music and movement therapy
  • Walking Club
  • Chair yoga
  • Zumba
  • Tai Chi
  • Swing dancing
  • Sports afternoons (mini-basketball, bocce and more)

“All of our activities are led by therapists, instructors and specialists trained to work with seniors,” notes Mabli. “We see a positive effect on our seniors who exercise; they’re more able-bodied, more mobile, and they have fewer falls. And they’re happier! Exercise is good for the mind, brain, and body.”

Physical activity need not be strenuous to be beneficial for seniors, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Older adults who engage in a moderate amount of physical activity (such as walking for short periods of time) see additional benefits including a reduced risk of disease, anxiety, and depression, and improved strength and bone health.

“This study affirms what we have long known—active seniors are healthier, happier seniors!” says Mabli.

For more information about United Hebrew’s activity programs, please call 914-632-2804 to speak with an eldercare specialist.