Couch Potatoe? No Way! by Liliya Lerner

Ageism is the discrimination that is based off of someone’s age because of the stereotypes and myths that are commonly thrown around in our society (Burzynska, 2017). These stereotypes about older adults may influence emerging, young, middle adults to think that once we begin aging, that we become lazy. However, these are things that are completely untrue and irrelevant about older adults! In this paper, I will be examining how although activity level may decrease during aging due to factors like health and environment, older adults continue to stay active to the best of their ability despite the myths that circulate in our society today. These myths may be due to the idea that since older adults are retired and done working they may simply just want to stop moving around and just stick to television. This is well portrayed in the media when we see older adults being  lazy, where all they are shown doing is sitting, sleeping, reading or just watching television all day long.

A cohort longitudinal study in Europe was done by Stenholm et al. (2016) that examined the transition to retirement and how it impacted physical activity during that time. The population that was examined had retired between the years of 2000-2011 (Stenholm et al., 2016) Researchers had asked the participants to estimate their average weekly hours of leisure-time and physical activity through surveys’ before retirement, during retirement and 10 years after retirement. Physical activity included but what not limited to: commuting, jogging, or any other activities that were similar to those previously mentioned (Stenholm et al., 2016) In conclusion, this study found that after retirement, older adults who face no chronical conditions with their health will have a greater increase of physical activity during the retirement transition. However, as retirement progressed, physical activity in older adults ended up decreasing (Stenholm et al., 2016). This particular article made it clear that older adults have a desire remain physically active during their new found freedom away from work. It also informs us that during aging, older adults require more assistance and guidance how to remain active after year of retirement (Stenholm et al., 2016).

Clément-Guillotin and Radel (2014) conducted a study that examined whether being physically active may change the stereotypes that are related to older adults. The researchers wanted to answer the question, “When older adults are physically active, does positive effect on how older adults are viewed change?” There were 94 individuals who were students, workers, or unemployed, and retired that had participated in the study. Participants were randomly assigned to one of the three questionnaires that involved simple descriptions of older people, older people who regularly participated in physical activity, and older people who regularly played cards (Clément-Guillotin and Radel, 2014). The participants in this study rated the level of competence, warmth, status, competition, emotions, and behavior that they perceived toward the older adults that they were randomly assigned to answer in their particular questionnaire. In the results, older adults are generally seen as warm. The questionnaire that involved the older adult who was regularly physically active, they were seen as very admirable (Clément-Guillotin and Radel, 2014). This study was helpful to see others perspectives of others about older adults and how getting out a positive message about older adults may help them see that population in more appealing terms instead of judging them and thinking that they are lazy.

Moschny et al. (2011) examined 1,937 older adults in Germany between the ages of 72 and 93 who participated in a longitudinal cross-sectional study about what prevents them from getting a specific amount of physical activity. The results found that 1,607 older adults described themselves as sufficiently physically active, 321 others said they were not sufficiently active. Out of the 321, 286 participants stated that they were not active because they faced barriers that prevented them from being physically active like poor health, lack of company, lack of interest, lack of opportunity, transportation, and being fearful of falling or injuring oneself. Lack of poor health was the biggest barrier for older adults (Moschny et al., 2011). This study makes one think about instead of judging older adults for being inactive but thinking about how as we get older, there are more barriers to face. Older adults face difficulties with staying physically active because they have more difficulty transporting around or simply feeling that doing it alone is difficult. This article challenges the stereotype by making sure that we look at it from another perspective besides our own. It is not because someone is lazy or sluggish, but it may be because they are more likely to participate in physical activity due to health problems, or fears of getting injured.

Mooney et al. (2015) produced research about patterns of physical activity. The researchers conducted a 3-year longitudinal cohort study with 3,497 New York City residents who were interviewed by telephone surveys. How the answers were distinguished was based off of a specific measurement called the Physical Activity scale for the Elderly (PASE.) The results based off of these surveys split the older adults by: least active, walker, domestic/gardening types, athletic types, and domestic/gardening athletic types (Mooney, et al. 2015). This was another research that focused more on barriers that older adults face when they are trying to be active. However, the results showed that only 18.8% of subjects were in the “lease active,” 21.8% reported themselves as “athletic types” and 36.7% of subjects were “walkers” (Mooney, et al. 2015). This research had analyzed the different activity that older adults take on. Many older adults spend time walking to get their physical activity which seems to be a common and healthy activity to. This examination also reminds us that physical activity does not mean that older adults have to be athletic, as long as they are trying to take actions such as taking a walk.

In conclusion, older adults are most definitely active. However, many stereotypes may portray older adults as inactive due to societal view. After reviewing multiple studies, research shows that older adults have opportunities after retirement to get active, and they take it to their advantage (Stenholm et al, 2016). The study done by Clément-Guillotin and Radel (2014) showing how if we changed the way we viewed older adults, then they are viewed as more admirable when you know that a certain older adult is categorized as active. Even though activity level declines, this is more likely due to aging and the inability to receive assistance to continue to be active (Stenholm et al., 2016). Many adults stay active by walking, some who have better health conditions may involve in more “athletic” types of behavior (Mooney et al., 2015). Many of the research also mentioned domestic house work and gardening, which is also a way to stay active (Mooney et al., 2015). My own grandfather takes a morning walk every single day and he is now 84 years old. He is one of my personal examples on how this is simply something we may thing based on movies or the fear of aging. However, there are barriers during the time of aging that may prevent certain actives. In reality, many older and aging adults remain active to the best of their ability.





Burzynka, A. (2017). Stereotypes and ageism [PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved from Colorado State University Canvas site for HDFS 312:

Clement-Guillotin C. & Radel R. (2014). If you are old and not want to fall into the traditional     stereotype—be physically active! Experimental Aging Research, 41: 446-462. Doi:10.1080/0361073X.2015.1053768

Mooney, S. J., Joshi, S., Cerdá, M., Quinn, J. W., Beard, J. R., Kennedy, G. J., & Rundle, A. G.(2015). Patterns of physical activity among older adults in New York City: A latent class approach. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 49(3): e13-e22. Doi:           10.1016/j.amepre.2015.02.015

Moschny, A., Platen, P., Klaaßen-Mielke, R., Trampisch, U., & Hinrichs, T. (2011). Barriers to  physical activity in older adults in Germany: A cross-sectional study. The International    Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity8: 1-10 doi:10.1186/1479-5868-8-121

Stenholm S., Pulakla A., Kawachi I., Oksanen T., Halonen I. J., Aalto V., Kivimaki M., &   Vahtera J. (2016). Changes in physical activing during the transition to retirement: a  cohort study. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity,  13: 1-8. Doi: 0.1186/s12966-016-0375-9


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