Certain healthy lifestyle choices made by older adults can affect their likelihood of living independently more than a decade later, according to a study from Uppsala University in Uppsala, Sweden.

Researchers studied what lifestyle factors could affect independent aging. They found that never smoking, maintaining a healthy diet and not being obese were associated with high functionality and survival.  

For the purposes of the study, “independent aging” meant that 16 years after the start of the study, participants had not received a dementia diagnosis, they had a Mini-Mental State Examination score of 25 or higher, they had not moved to a nursing home, they had remained independent with activities of daily living and they were able to walk outside by themselves.

The study included 1,104 men who ranged from 69.4 to 74.1 years at the beginning of the study. They were studied over 16 years.

Each participant completed a questionnaire about their histories and lifestyles, such as education, living conditions and physical activity.

The study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Future research in this area, the investigators said, should focus on how lifestyle changes made after the age of 70 can affect one’s independence.