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Expanding the Agenda for Research on the Physically Active Aging Body

Cassandra Phoenix and Bevan Grant

In this article, the authors consider the different approaches that can be used to examine the relationship between physical activity and aging. They propose that much is to be gained in our awareness of this dynamic relationship by drawing on multiple forms of knowledge that can generate diverse understandings regarding the impact of physical activity on physiological, psychological, and social aspects of aging. Accordingly, 3 different approaches to understanding the older physically (in)active body are presented. These are categorized as (a) the objective truth about the aging, physically active body; (b) the subjective truth about the aging, physically active body; and (c) “tales” about the aging, physically active body. The key underpinnings, strengths, and weaknesses of each approach are outlined. A number of examples from the literature are also offered to demonstrate where and how each approach has been used to contribute to our understanding about older people and physical activity. The more thorough, multidisciplinary, and wide spanning our knowledge of the aging, active body is, the more informed we might become in every dimension of its existence.

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Learning to Run From Narrative Foreclosure: One Woman’s Story of Aging and Physical Activity

Meridith Griffin and Cassandra Phoenix

In this article, the authors construct a story of one woman’s (Justine’s) experience of learning to run within the context of a beginners group. Building on existing scholarship on narrative, aging, and physical activity, this work is part of a larger ethnographic project examining subjective accounts of the physically active aging body across the life course. Concerned with often simplistically linear problems of representation, the authors present a messy text that represents the complex and fluid nature of Justine’s embodied tale. The aim is to show the intersection of biographical (storied) identity with health behavior choices and to interrogate the process of challenging narrative foreclosure. By using the emerging genre of messy text as a creative analytic practice, the authors avoid prompting a single, closed, convergent reading of Justine’s story. Instead, they provoke interpretation within the reader as witness and expand the ways in which research on aging and physical activity has been represented.

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Physical Activity Among Older Adults With Visual Impairment: A Scoping Review

Meridith Griffin, Brett Smith, P. David Howe, and Cassandra Phoenix

In this paper we present a scoping review of literature on aging, visual impairment, and physical activity. Our objectives are to: (a) explore the available literature on aging, physical activity, and sight loss; (b) describe how participation in physical activity by older adults with visual impairment is understood by researchers; and, (c) identify benefits, barriers, and facilitators of physical activity participation as reported by older adults with age-related sight loss. Over 2,000 sources were reviewed, with 30 studies meeting eligibility criteria. Findings were organized into four thematic categories, namely: (a) participation rates; (b) health inequalities; (c) barriers to physical activity participation; and, (d) benefits of physical activity participation. Through this scoping review process, extant knowledge was synthesized and gaps in the literature were critically assessed. To address these gaps, several avenues for future research are outlined and described, alongside a consideration of the implications of the scoping review findings for both policy and practice.