Being able to shop for food in later life is an important aspect of remaining independent and staying well. Shopping can be a social activity; a time to go out, meet friends and maintain good health.
However, many older adults fear that carrying shopping bags will increase their risk of falling and for those living alone this can lead to isolation and difficulties in accessing food. A report by Age UK* estimates that as many as one in ten over-65s living in their own homes are at risk of malnutrition.
But a recent study, conducted by the Active Ageing Research Group at the University of Cumbria, has concluded that carrying shopping bags, whether in one or both hands, should pose no additional threat of falling.
The study examined the stability and walking patterns of younger and older females while carrying different combinations of shopping bags ie no bags, light bag on one hand, heavy bag on one hand, light bag on both hands, heavy bag on both hands.
The bag loads (heaviest load was 3kg in each hand) represented the load of typical items eg a loaf of bread (400/800g), one can of soup (300g), 1 litre of milk (1kg), etc.
The research showed that carrying shopping bags does not make older individuals more unstable during standing or undisturbed walking. These findings should lessen concerns about instability and falling during a shopping excursion.
The study’s authors, Dr Susan Dewhurst and Theodoros Bampouras, explain:
“The idea for the study came from discussions with older individuals about the barriers they face while out and about, completing everyday tasks. Encouraging older adults to continue shopping for essential items helps to reduce social isolation and increase their levels of physical activity.
“The university’s Active Ageing Research Group is committed to helping older individuals maintain independence and quality of life through scientific research, which can easily be used and translated into practical applications.”
“Based on the findings of this study, we are now examining different ways that can potentially assist older individuals maintain better balance.”
The study can be read in full here. To find out more about the activities of the Active Ageing Research Group, or about their Research and Impact in Active Ageing Symposium on 24 June in Lancaster, please visit www.cumbria.ac.uk/activeageing
*Age UK, Food Shopping in later life, 2012.