Active Ageing in The Community. Exploring the Role of Community Activity Groups for Older Adults for Physical Activity, Health and Wellbeing

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Lindsay-Smith, Gabrielle (2019) Active Ageing in The Community. Exploring the Role of Community Activity Groups for Older Adults for Physical Activity, Health and Wellbeing. PhD thesis, Victoria University.


The proportion of older adults (60+ years) globally, is predicted to more than double between 2017 and 2050. Ageing is often associated with declining health and physical capacity, but has the potential to be a positive experience, often termed Active Ageing or successful ageing. The promotion of Active Ageing within the community, is important, to ensure positive experiences of older adults, and to lessen the burden that older adults have on health and social services. Physical activity (PA) and social support are key determinants of Active Ageing, however, PA declines with age. The aim of this PhD was to investigate Active Ageing in the community, through participation in volunteer-run community activity PA and social programs. This research adopted a case-study approach, specifically the community organisation and associated activities, was Life Activities Clubs Victoria (LACVI). This research included two systematic reviews (study 1), a longitudinal self-report quantitative survey study (n=35, mean age=67) administered in three waves (baseline, six and twelve months) analysed using linear mixed models, and four focus groups (n=24) which were analysed using thematic analysis. A mixed-methods study synthesising results from the survey study and two focus groups (n=11) explored the impact of participation in social and PA programs on social wellbeing, PA and health (study 2a and b). The final qualitative study, analysed the four focus groups, including participants from LACVI and other community activity programs (e.g. Men’s Shed). This study explored how and why participation in PA and social programs impact wellbeing. Study 1. The systematic reviews investigated the association between social support or social integration and PA. In summary, social support for PA and social integration factors, having large friendship networks, and connecting widely and regularly with people, were positively associated with PA levels. Study 2 a and b. Synthesis of the findings of the mixed methods study suggested that program participation significantly reduced loneliness. In addition, participants felt they gained social connectedness through program participation and this was especially important at times of significant life events. The studies suggested that socially oriented PA programs increased motivation to adhere to PA programs long term. This was supported by maintenance of PA levels over one year in the PA groups compared to reduction over one year in social group participants. Study 3. The final qualitative study utilised a leisure-based model of wellbeing to explore the aspects of program participation that older adults felt were important for their wellbeing. in summary, older adults appreciated groups that they could identify with, in order to develop new social contacts, with activities that gave them control, enjoyment, meaning and challenge in their lives. The analysis suggested that both social and PA programs could provide these. Overall, this program of research suggests that community activity programs for older adults offer a variety of benefits for older adults and thereby promote Active Ageing, especially when a variety of types of activity are offered in one setting, with a social focus and in a way that older adults feel they can relate to.

Item type Thesis (PhD thesis)
Subjects Historical > FOR Classification > 1106 Human Movement and Sports Science
Historical > FOR Classification > 1117 Public Health and Health Services
Current > Division/Research > Institute for Health and Sport
Current > Division/Research > College of Sports and Exercise Science
Keywords thesis by publication; older adults; active ageing; physical activity; social connectedness; Life Activities Clubs Victoria; health; wellbeing; community groups; physical activity programs
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