Operationalizing Environmental Indicators for Physical Activity in Older Adults

in Journal of Aging and Physical Activity
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This qualitative study describes environmental supports and barriers to physical activity in an older adult sample drawn from low- and high-walkable neighborhoods. Thirty-seven individuals age 55 and over were recruited and answered open-ended survey questions, with a subsample invited back to partake in a semistructured interview. Content analysis identified categories and themes linking perceptions of neighborhood-environment characteristics to activity. Emerging categories and themes did not differ across neighborhood walkability, so results are presented for both groups combined. Infrastructure was the most common category identified to encourage activity, specifically, well-maintained sidewalks, bike paths or lanes, and traffic control. Other categories of land use, landscape, and aesthetics were reported. Poorly maintained or missing sidewalks, crosswalks, bike paths or lanes, and traffic safety were categories that discouraged activity. In conclusion, the information obtained is helpful in solidifying which environmental characteristics are important to measure as they relate to activity behavior in an older adult population.

Strath is with the Dept. of Human Movement Sciences; Isaacs, the Dept. of Architecture; and Greenwald, the Dept. of Urban Planning, University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, Milwaukee WI 53201-0413.