Aging Well
Mental & Emotional Health
Senior Health

Housework Has Both Physical and Mental Benefits

Housework has both emotional and physical benefits for older adults, according to new findings by a Case Western Reserve University school of nursing researcher.

“House cleaning kept them up and moving,” said 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 test a theory called House’s Conceptual Framework for Understanding Social Inequalities in Health and Aging. It’s considered a model for understanding how factors such as income, education, environment and health behaviors, like smoking and exercise, influence an older person’s health.

The 337 participants in the study ranged from 65 to 94 years old and had to have at least one chronic illness. As participants, they were also required to 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.

They discussed their backgrounds and physical and emotional well-being in interviews. The researchers then used the University of Utah’s Digit Lab to link geographic and socioeconomic information on the neighborhoods with health data.

Wright said she was surprised to learn that housework and maintaining their property had more of an influence on the participants’ physical and mental well-being than such factors as neighborhood or income.

“What I found was that neighborhood poverty did not directly affect mental or physical health,” she said.

Wright said she hopes the study shows how important it is for sedentary older adults with disabilities and chronic illnesses to continue physical activities.

The study was reported in the journal Geriatric Nursing.

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