The secrets of highly active older adults

J Aging Stud. 2013 Dec;27(4):398-409. doi: 10.1016/j.jaging.2013.09.003. Epub 2013 Oct 10.

The secrets of highly active older adults

Franke T1, Tong C, Ashe MC, McKay H, Sims-Gould J; Walk The Talk Team.

Author information

1Center for Hip Health and Mobility, 2635 Laurel Street, Vancouver, BC V5Z 1M9, Canada. Electronic address:


Although physical activity is a recognized component in the management of many chronic diseases associated with aging, activity levels tend to progressively decline with increasing age (Manini & Pahor, 2009; Schutzer & Graves, 2004).

In this article we examine the key factors that facilitate physical activity in highly active community-dwelling older adults.

Using a strengths based approach, we examined the factors that facilitated physical activity in our sample of highly active older adults.

Twenty-seven older adults participated in face-to face interviews. We extracted a sub-sample of 10 highly active older adults to be included in the analyses.

Based on a framework analysis of our transcripts we identified three factors that facilitate physical activity in our sample, these include: 1) resourcefulness: engagement in self-help strategies such as self-efficacy, self-control and adaptability; 2) social connections: the presence of relationships (friend, neighborhood, institutions) and social activities that support or facilitate high levels of physical activity; and 3) the role of the built and natural environments: features of places and spaces that support and facilitate high levels of physical activity.

Findings provide insight into, and factors that facilitate older adults’ physical activity.

We discuss implications for programs (e.g., accessible community centers, with appropriate programming throughout the lifecourse) and policies geared towards the promotion of physical activity (e.g., the development of spaces that facilitate both physical and social activities).


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