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Soc Sci Med. 2012 Apr;74(8):1180-92. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2011.12.039. Epub 2012 Feb 8.

A photovoice documentation of the role of neighborhood physical and social environments in older adults' physical activity in two metropolitan areas in North America.

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Department of Gerontology, Simon Fraser University, 2800-515 W. Hastings St., Vancouver, BC V6B 5K3, Canada.


A substantial body of evidence indicates that regular engagement in moderate-intensity physical activity on most days of the week is sufficient for older adults to achieve positive health outcomes. Although there is a growing body of literature that examines the affect of neighborhood environment on physical activity in older adults, the research tends to overlook social aspects that potentially shape the relationship between physical environment and physical activity. This article presents qualitative themes related to the role of the physical and social environments in influencing physical activity among older adults as identified through the photovoice method with sixty-six older adults in eight neighborhoods in metropolitan Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada and Greater Portland, Oregon, USA. The photovoice data generated seven themes: being safe and feeling secure, getting there, comfort in movement, diversity of destinations, community-based programs, peer support and intergenerational/volunteer activities. Although the majority of these themes have explicit or implicit physical and social aspects, certain themes are primarily based on physical environmental aspects (e.g., safe and feeling secure, comfort in movement), while a few themes are more oriented to social context (e.g., peer support, intergenerational activity/volunteering). The themes are discussed with a focus on how the neighborhood physical and social environmental aspects interplay to foster or hinder older adults in staying active in both everyday activities and intentional physical activities. Policy implications of the findings are discussed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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