Seven out of ten older adults do not do any type of physical activity in Argentina, according to a study, a deficiency that affects their quality of life and which experts link particularly to the consequences of the pandemic years.
Regarding the physical activity deficit in relation to WHO, ie. “any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that requires an expenditure of energy,” including instances of play, work, movement, household chores, and recreational activities; 73% of the elderly do not do any physical activity at least once a week.
This is what emerges from a joint study by the Argentine Observatory on Social Debt at the Catholic University of Argentina (ODSA-UCA) and the Navarro Viola Foundation.
“The deficit of physical activity among the elderly, which as of 2017 remained around 70%, amounted to almost 80% in 2020, which is explained by the fact that going outside was the most conditioned during the isolation, there was no opportunity to go to the gym or other spaces for movement during remote work have expanded (among those who do productive activities),” explained Solange Rodríguez Espinola, a researcher at UCA and one of the authors of the report “Living Conditions of the Elderly ( 2017-2021) Vulnerabilities Key to the COVID-19 Pandemic?
It is worth clarifying that we are not talking about “physical exercise” here, which refers to a higher scale, that is, exclusively to that physical activity that is “planned, structured, repetitive and related to a goal related to the improvement or maintaining one or more components of physical fitness.
The study shows that the lack of physical activity is also high among people under 60, but increases by 12 percentage points among those over that age, and this lack is again more pronounced among people who have not completed high school (83% vs. 63), among those who belong to the lowest socio-economic stratum (86% vs. 56% of the “middle-high” stratum) or live in the suburbs of Buenos Aires (79% vs. 55% of CABA).
“A deficit equivalent to that of the under-60 population should be interpreted as a more critical deficit, with greater implications for a life of adequate health. And according to the results presented, the deficit is not equivalent but greater in older adults,” the study said.
This deficit amounts to “nearly 5 million older adults (who) should incorporate exercise into their weekly routine.”
On the other hand, under the challenge of the pandemic, two out of ten elderly people have worsened their health in 2020, compared to the moment before Covid 19, (mostly among men, in the professional middle strata, from CABA and in multi-member households ), but in 2021 the percentage of those whose health status had improved increased compared to the previous period (22% vs. 15%), especially among the non-poor, in CABA.
Older people who have continued with their health problems between 2019 and 2021 represent greater social and economic vulnerability. In addition, about 6 out of 10 elderly people who live alone have health problems compared to those who live with others.
Regarding “personal project deficit,” which measures “the ability to think about projects outside of everyday life, the ability to design,” the incidence was much higher among those over 60 (22%) than among 18 to 59 ( 14%).
The report also shows that for the period 2017-2021, feeling “little or no happiness” was slightly more common among those over 60 (15% vs. 13%).
However, Rodríguez Espinola explains that if 2020 is compared to 2021, it is evident that “unhappiness among older people increased, reaching almost 18%” in the second year of the pandemic, after paradoxically decreasing in 2020 Mr.
“The pandemic caused a restructuring of needs and values, being alive and healthy in 2020 was everything, even above not having a job or having something to eat. It was a period of appreciation of how important feelings are, contact with networks,” he said.
The sample of the Argentine Social Debt Survey consists of 5,760 households per year belonging to urban conglomerates of 80,000 inhabitants or more throughout the country, within which the population aged 18 or over was surveyed, including about 1,300 over 60 years.
What about medical examinations?
19% of older people do not have at least one annual medical consultation, according to the survey.
“The shortage of medical consultation is related to access to care in health centers that had restrictions during the pandemic that have not yet been normalized, both in the private and public sectors,” Rodríguez told the state-run Spinola agency.
In this sense, he pointed out that “for this generational group, health care has had a greater delay in bringing its services fully into operation,” resulting in “delayed and reduced care.”
However, the study shows that the proportion of people over 60 who do not comply with the recommendation to visit at least once every 12 months is lower than that registered among people under 60, where the lack of annual control reaches 25%.
“Between 2017 and 2019, the estimated value of the elderly who did not attend an annual medical consultation was only 8%, a value that increased significantly in 2020, reaching 42%; but this consultation deficit started to narrow in 2021 when 28% were reported,” he said.
Among people under 60, on the other hand, the percentage of the population who did not see a doctor even once in an entire year increased from 17 to 37.7% between 2019 and 2020, but remained the same level in 2021
On the other hand, the study shows that this way of neglecting one’s own health is more common among men – 20% versus 18%, among people with lower education – 22% of those who did not complete secondary education and 14% of those who have completed it – and those with a lower socio-economic level -22% of those who belong to the “very low” socio-economic stratum and 13% of those who are in the upper middle class’-.