Do you perceive that you are useful to other people? I certainly hope so. You may feel useful to your children, your parents, cousins, friends, neighbours, and hopefully also feel useful at work where you see your patients.

Do you think you will still feel useful when you are older and retired? What about if you get knee OA and have difficulty walking? What does feeling useful have to do with anything?

This study published in the Journal of Aging & Health investigated the association of perceived usefulness to other people and active versus passive pain coping strategies, among 200 seniors with knee OA.

In summary, those with knee OA and chronic pain who had a higher self perception of usefulness had greater active coping strategies which was also associated with higher functional scores.

In other words, the degree of self perceived usefulness appears to be associated with overall well being and quality of life in those with knee OA.

(It must be said that for several years, I used to have my grandma help me stuff the envelopes that you get your APTEI Report in.)

Throughout her senior years, my grandma was extremely useful and helped her four adult children on a daily basis. She was always grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning or taking care of her grandkids; all giving her a tremendous perception of usefulness.

In many traditional cultures, grandparents do not just retire into a senior’s home where they are left alone to rest, relax and deteriorate. Grandparents play a key role in the extended family where they feel and are useful. It is a win-win situation.

Perhaps what has kept my grandma going at age 92 is that she continues to feel useful and greatly appreciated.

Courtesy of

I now wish to compare my grandma to an elephant. Elephant grandmothers play a vital role in the herd. In fact, the oldest and wisest female is the leader who guides the whole family.

The CBC-TV Nature of Things documentary Mommy Wildest, describes how female African elephants raise generations of offspring while teaching the herd everything there is to know about their environment and social circles.

Similar to humans, elephants are social animals that can live into their sixties and beyond. They form very strong bonds within their family herd which is led by the oldest female.

My grandma is comparable to a grandma elephant!

Reference: Pierpaoli CM, Parmelee PA. Feelings of Usefulness to Others Predict Active Coping With Osteoarthritis Knee Pain. J Aging Health. 2017 Aug;29(5):826-841.
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