Perspectives on Aging with Multiple Sclerosis


Younger and middle-aged people with MS may be able to learn from older adults strategies on how to prioritize, modify, and self-manage factors in order to create a plan to age in place, according to the results of recent research.

neurology, neurologists, advice, aging in place, autoimmune disease, MS, MS treatment, primary care, MS diagnosis, relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis, rrms, multiple sclerosis, internal medicine, MS treatment, exercise, leisure

Younger and middle aged people with multiple sclerosis (MS) may be able to learn from older adults strategies on how to prioritize, modify, and self-manage factors in order to create a plan to age in place, according to the results of recent research. The research was published in the journal Multiple Sclerosis International, and was authored by Elizabeth Wallack of the Recovery & Performance Laboratory, Faculty of Medicine, at Memorial University, St. John’s, in Newfoundland, Canada, and colleagues.

“The aim of this study was to determine what factors most greatly contributed to healthy aging with multiple sclerosis (MS) from the perspective of a large sample of older people with MS,” say the researchers. In order to explore the relatively new concept of healthy aging with MS, the researchers recruited participants in three age groups to answer an open-ended question about aging. The question, “From your point of view, what are the most important things that help you live long and healthy with MS?” came at the end of a survey with questions relating to health, lifestyle, and aging.

A total of 683 people between the ages of 55 and 88 years contributed to the final sample. The majority, 78%, of the participants were female and most lived in their own homes with a spouse or partner. The researchers identified 7 themes in the answers, describing them as, “social connections, attitude and outlook on life, lifestyle choices and habits, health care system, spirituality and religion, independence, and finances.”

Nearly one-third of the respondents (29%) described some kind of social connectedness as an important factor in healthy aging. Those connections included “(1) reciprocal relationships with family and friends, (2) social engagement and volunteerism, and (3) support provider/recipient relationships,” said the authors.

The second most important factor was that of attitude and outlook, which the researchers say “accounted for 27%” of the responses. “Older people with MS reported adopting ways of thinking that helped them to cope with the challenges of living with MS,” say the authors.

Lifestyle choices and habits were included in 23% of the responses, but the researchers identified a large number of subthemes in this category, which they say helped “illustrate how this concept was highly variable and individualized.”

The researchers note that the findings of the present study differ from previous studies in two ways. “First, previous research identified the role of elements such as social support, attitude, spirituality, health care, and healthy lifestyle strategies in healthy aging with MS,” say the researchers, adding, that their findings suggest social connections, attitude and outlook, and lifestyle choices should be seen as the most important elements.

“Next,” say the researchers, “the complex interconnections and multidimensional nature of the elements of healthy aging with MS suggest that a biopsychosocial model, which affects coping abilities as well as disease progression, may better reflect conceptualizations of healthy aging among older people with MS.”

Each of the three elements the researchers identify as being most critical to healthy aging “represent modifiable factors that can be positively impacted through targeted self-management strategies,” say the authors. They conclude, “Older people successfully aging in their own homes seem to have a positive outlook and engage in healthy lifestyle behaviors.”

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