Women struggle more than men with day-to-day tasks in old age due to the physical toll of all the housework they did when younger, new research suggests.
Scientists studied how elderly adults coped with activities such as climbing stairs, lifting shopping or cooking meals.
Among over-70s, women were more likely to have problems performing basic physical and mental tasks. The study, based on data from more than 60,000 people, suggested this is because of the ‘socio-economic disadvantage’ women suffered in the 20th century.
Researchers noted many women in the study – who were all born before 1960 – did not enter the workforce or higher education.
Women struggle more than men with day-to-day tasks in old age due to the physical toll of all the housework they did when younger, new research suggests [File photo]
Instead, they were required to do ‘domestic and unpaid labour’ such as household chores.
The University College London study said such manual labour ‘exposed them to health risks that can lead to disability’ and reduce the ability to live independently in old age. However, it found the gap between men and women in performing daily tasks has reduced in recent years.
Lead author Mikaela Bloomberg said: ‘It appears that gender inequalities in the ability to carry out daily tasks at older age are decreasing over time. This could be explained by the fact that women have better access to education and are more likely to enter the paid labour force in recent generations.’
She added that the range of physical capabilities between older men and women ‘might be partly due to sex differences in body composition such as body mass and skeletal muscle’. The study looked at data from more than 27,000 men and 34,000 women aged between 50 and 100 living in England, Ireland and the US.
Participants were assessed on physical and mental capacity to perform daily tasks. These included mobility problems, such as the ability to climb a flight of stairs unaided, carry grocery shopping or extend their arms.
They were required to do ‘domestic and unpaid labour’ such as household chores. The University College London study said such manual labour ‘exposed them to health risks that can lead to disability’ and reduce the ability to live independently in old age [File photo]
The authors of the study, published in The Lancet, concluded: ‘Women are more likely to be limited than men in carrying out daily tasks from age 70. We observed women were more likely to be limited in mobility activities from age 50 onward.’
It comes after research this week found household chores like vacuuming, washing up and ironing might be the key to staying healthy in old age.
The study, led by a team in Singapore, said over-65s who spend lots of time on housework have better physical strength, are mentally sharper and have greater protection against falls.
Household clutter can help dementia patients perform daily tasks such as making tea, according to researchers.
Experts said a tidy environment may help people with serious dementia, but those less affected appear to cope better with a bit of their usual clutter around.
Researchers from the University of East Anglia asked 65 participants at various stages of dementia to carry out daily tasks in different environments.
Professor Eneida Mioshi said it is ‘really important to know how people with dementia can be best supported at home’.
Source: Daily Mail UK