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Gerontologist. 1998 Oct;38(5):556-68.

Daily life in very old age: everyday activities as expression of successful living.

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  • 1Institute of Gerontology, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI 48202, USA.


The goals of this article are (a) to describe the daily life of the very old in terms of frequency, duration, variety, and social and physical contexts of activities, and (b) to examine the effects of background variables (e.g., age, sex, residential and marital status, income, and education) on late life activity engagement. A representative sample of 516 adults aged 70-105 was interviewed about their activities using the Yesterday Interview. In contrast to most research on activity engagement, this measurement approach allows for assessment of both the type and context of activities engaged in during the day preceding the interview. The results indicated high frequencies of obligatory activities but also showed substantial time spent in discretionary activities, with television viewing occupying most of the participants' leisure time. Most activities were done alone and at home. In bivariate and multiple regression analyses, age and residential status had the strongest association with activity frequency, duration, and variety; the oldest-old and those residing in long-term care facilities had lower levels of activity engagement. Results are discussed in terms of their relevance for successful aging.

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