Stereotypes of Aging: Older Adults Not being Physically Active or Leaving their Homes By Jeff See

There are many stereotypes that surround all walks of life, but in particular, Older Adults. One of the stereotypes that surrounds Older Adults is that they are not physically active and they do not leave their homes that often. I wanted to find some research to see if there was any truth behind this stereotype. We learned a bit about Olga Kotelko and the amount of her physical activity in our class thus far, but is that behavior fairly typical of an Older Adult, or is more of a sedentary lifestyle more common?

An article that was found actually addresses the thought of a sedentary lifestyle among older adults and the effects that are had from living that lifestyle. Maher & Conroy (2016) talk about many different factors that can lead older adults into the sedentary lifestyle, the biggest being different motivations. Some motivations include having a favorite armchair or a favorite television program that they sit and watch each day. This type of behavior can definitely lead to people thinking of the stereotype to be true. In the study, 100 participants ranging in age from 60 to 89 years were given activity monitors that they wore daily and nightly, as well as completed online questionnaires in the morning and at night of a 14-day long study. The questionnaires included questions on plans for the day, bed times and waking up times, physical activity for the day, and sedentary times throughout the day. The activity monitors measured the participants’ activity throughout the day. The results of the study were pretty interesting. It came out that participants that had said they were going to change their sedentary lifestyles often times did not due so. Maher & Conroy (2016) say that this could be a result of overconfidence and instead, planning some different activities throughout the day, even those with lighter physical activity are better for a sedentary lifestyle than talking about changing a sedentary lifestyle and not coming up with a plan. They concluded that older adult’s sedentary lifestyles can change over time and is found to be related to a change in motivation.

This first article, though does show that there are older adults that are not necessarily as physically active or leave their homes as often, tells us that they can certainly change their behaviors just like anyone can.

The next article relating to the stereotype of older adults lacking physical activity and not leaving their homes is about older adults from Taiwan and the relationship of physical fitness and successful aging. Researchers Lin, Hsieh, Cheng, Tseng and Su (2016) recruited 378 participants aging from 60 to 102 years. The participants in the study underwent an assortment of psychological testing including geriatric testing of health conditions and behaviors and activities of daily living, a depression test, and a mental state exam. Then the older adults participated in a variety of physical fitness tests. The results of these were then compared to the different points of the definition of successful aging and the participants were placed in groups of successful aging or non-successful aging. The results did show that those that performed better in the physical fitness tests were the ones that were placed in the successful aging group. Lin et al. (2016) found that 26.5% of the 378 were placed in the successful aging group. Physical fitness among older adults has shown to decrease depression and allows older adults to perform easier on everyday tasks.

This shows us that being more physical as an older adult is ideal and helpful at that age. In class, it was mentioned though that getting the habit of being physically active is the challenge for most older adults and it become easier the early you make it a habit in your lifetime. I do not believe that the results of this study helps disprove the stereotype that older adults are not physically active, since 73% of the participants were placed in the non-successful aging group. But it is clear that being physically active as an older adult is good, not just for physical health but mental as well.

Researchers Petersen, Austin, Mattek and Kaye (2015) looked specifically at the time out of home that older adults take, and how it relates to the cognitive, physical, and emotional wellbeing on them through a longitudinal study. The participants in this study were 85 independent older adults between 65 and 96 years. Independent here means they lived alone. They were a part of a cohort that had been monitored for 3-5 years. On a weekly basis, participants took online health questionnaires that asked about different events that could affect the typical activity patterns. Along with weekly questionnaires, participants had motion sensors placed in their homes in a variety of places to help monitor the amount of activity actually taking place and the walking speed of participants. Besides the weekly questionnaire, participants were given yearly physicals and neurological exams. Pain level was also something assessed weekly in determining physical activity. The results found showed that physical ability was positively related to time out of the home. Other things found in the study were time out of the home was related to the emotional state of the participant. The more a person was able to spend time out of the home, the lower loneliness was for that individual as well as the lower the mood was for them (Petersen et al., 2015).

This study helps us to combat the stereotype that older adults are not physically active and do not leave their homes. The commonality between these articles so far is that physical activity among older adults is not only good for them in their mobility, but also for their emotional statuses as well.

The final article looked at is a study conducted by researchers Chow, Chen and Lin (2013) on how out of home trips and functional fitness are related for older adults. For the study, 412 older adults aged 65 and older from Taiwan were recruited. Participants filled out questionnaires on out of home trips as well as questions on age, sex, health status and were as specific as giving a number of options for the level of physical activity relating to out of home trips like walking to the park and such. Then the participants were measured on their functional fitness abilities through a number of fitness tests. The results of the study showed that older adults typically took trips out of their homes with exercise being the motivating factor (Chow et al., 2013). For the purpose of the study, the results helped the researches to see that there was a positive association between functional fitness and out of home trips.

This article contributes to the stereotype that older adults are not physically active and do not leave their homes. The study takes the questionnaires of those involved that talk about their personal level of time spent out of their homes and different reasons why they go out of their homes. Then it takes their physical assessment and compares the results to the questionnaire. This can show the researchers if the participants are being honest about their level of being out of their home’s based on how physically fit they are. It shows that older adults that have said they were out of their homes at least once a day, are more physically fit than those that are more sporadic in the amount they leave their homes (Chow et al., 2013).

After reviewing the different articles relating to older adult’s physical levels and the amount they leave their homes, it is safe to say that the stereotype that says older adults are not physically active and do not leave their homes is simply not true. There are plenty of older adults that probably are not as physically fit as they should be and may spend more time in their homes, but that can be said about any age group or any person. I believe that older adults enjoy being out and about as much as the average person does. The level of their physical activity level and fitness level does contribute to the amount that they’re out of their homes as well. Making physical fitness a habit at an earlier age, as discussed in class, can contribute positively to older adults being more active themselves.

References

Chow, H., Chen, H., & Lin, L. L. (2014). Association between out‐of‐home trips and older adults’ functional fitness. Geriatrics & Gerontology International, 14(3), 596-604. doi:10.1111/ggi.12143

Lin, P., Hsieh, C., Cheng, H., Tseng, T., & Su, S. C. (2016). Association between physical fitness and successful aging in Taiwanese older adults. Plos ONE, 11(3),

Maher, J. P., & Conroy, D. E. (2016). A dual-process model of older adults’ sedentary behavior. Health Psychology, 35(3), 262-272. doi:10.1037/hea0000300

Petersen, J., Austin, D., Mattek, N., & Kaye, J. (2015). Time out-of-home and cognitive, physical, and emotional wellbeing of older adults: A longitudinal mixed effects model. Plos ONE, 10(10),

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