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Making the Case > Older Adult Voices > Why Am I not Active?

“As you get older it is just easier to sit.”

“As soon as it snows … we’re finished.”

“Haven’t got very good sidewalks out there, have they?”

“… In rural areas, the problem is getting instructors."

Barriers to Activity

Why Am I not Active?These four quotes represent four main issues we heard in all the focus groups.

Ageism, the weather, the built environment and the lack of qualified professionals in many communities topped the list of barriers identified by participants.

The social barrier of ageism (i.e., discrimination based on chronological or assumed age) discourages older adults from participating in physical activity.

Our culture tends to dismiss active, successful aging, while poor aging is culturally accepted as “normal.”

The passive lifestyle that is encouraged as we age is causing unnecessary disability and poor health. Too many older adults are encouraged to “take it easy” once they retire.

Our Alberta weather, especially the long months of winter, influences people’s decisions to be active or not.

Many participants expressed concern about being unable to be active outside once snow was on the ground because of a fear of slipping and falling.

The fear of falling in the winter is so great for many older adults that they become very sedentary through the winter.

Built Environment
The built environment in many communities and recreation areas is not designed for access by people with disabilities, including many older adults.

Communities are often not connected well. For example, sidewalks within town might just end or may not exist in certain parts of towns. Out of town, walkers or cyclists may not be able to safely access recreation areas.

Rural roads are sometimes not wide enough or maintained well enough for cars to safely pass people walking or biking on the side of the road. These kinds of factors can influence people’s ability to be physically active.

Lack of Qualified Professionals
The lack of qualified professionals in small communities is also a barrier to physical activity.

People in our focus groups told us that it’s very difficult to locate and hire qualified physical activity professionals in rural communities (even when there’s funding available).

Rural communities also face a shortage of physical activity professionals who specialize in working with older adults. Attracting these professionals to a rural community is very difficult.

Physical activity professionals can provide advice on where and how to be physically active in the community. Many physical activity professionals also have the skills and knowledge to work effectively with people who have chronic diseases.

Professional instructors can successfully motivate older adults to participate in and maintain physical activity.

Other Barriers
Other barriers include:

  • Perceived safety (e.g., fear of darkness).

  • Other commitments (too busy).

  • Not having a friend to be active with.

  • Lack of transportation to get to recreational facilities.

  • Health problems were both a motivator to be more physically active and a reason to limit physical activity.

Participants may need information about:

  • Indoor activity options, especially during the winter.

  • “Safe” activity options, e.g., indoor walking, outside walking (could install benches near the outdoor track at the local school) or ensuring that main trails are maintained year round for safe walking.


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