201720 “Use it or lose it” - Walking habits of community dwelling older adults

Monday, November 9, 2009

Dior Hildebrand, BSN, RN, PHN , County of Los Angeles, Department of Public Health, Physical Activity and Senior Health Programs, Los Angeles, CA
Patricia Cummings, MPH , Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, Office of Senior Health, Los Angeles, CA
Tony Kuo, MD, MSHS , Public Health/Family Medicine, County of Los Angeles/UCLA, Los Angeles, CA
An interventional approach to promoting physical activity among older adults is to engineer utilitarian walking into daily living. However, little is known about how older adults perceive this form of walking or what factors may influence utilitarian walking.

To address this gap, we studied the barriers and facilitators of utilitarian walking among older adults in Los Angeles County. The multi-component study included: 1) examination of signal timing at 15 local crosswalks located in communities with a large number of older adults aged 65+; 2) 8 focus groups of community dwelling seniors (n = 57); and a survey of traffic engineers in the county (n = 25).

Examination of signal timing found that the average time allotted for individuals to cross these crosswalks was approximately 3.22 ft/sec. Although this is more generous than federal guidelines (4.5 – 4.0 ft/sec), it is still above the recommended foot speed of 1.8 to 2.8 ft/sec for the older adult population. Qualitative and survey data showed that most older adults do not walk for utilitarian reasons (social connection was the primary motive) and that traffic engineers often are unaware of the locations where signal timing should be tailored to older adults.

Findings suggest efforts to promote physical activity among older adults should include interventions that use age-appropriate signal timing, foster greater coordination between traffic engineers and communities with older residents to improve safety and management of crosswalks leading to common social destinations, and incorporation of social connection as a primary incentive for motivating utilitarian walking.

Learning Objectives:
To understand the walking behaviors of older adults and the factors which influence their choice to walk either for leisure or for utilitarian purposes. To describe environmental factors such as crosswalk safety and management of signal timing by traffic engineers on utilitarian walking among older pedestrians. To understand the social factors which influence older adults walking behaviors.

Keywords: Environment, Physical Activity

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: Co-PI of the project
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.