255037 Dog-walking and sense of community in neighborhoods: Insights for promoting regular physical activity in older adults

Monday, October 29, 2012 : 2:50 PM - 3:10 PM

Ann Toohey, BA, MSc , Population Health Intervention Research Centre, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, Canada
Gavin McCormack, BSc, MSc, PhD (Public Health) , Department of Community Health Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, Canada
Patricia K. Doyle-Baker, DrPH/PhD , Faculty of Kinesiology, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, Canada
Cindy Adams, MSW, PhD , Veterinary Clinical and Diagnostic Sciences, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, Canada
Melanie Rock, RSW, PhD (Anthropology) , Population Health Intervention Research Centre, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, Canada
Walking provides mental and physical health benefits for older adults. This study investigates whether dog-ownership and neighborhood characteristics are associated with sense of community and neighborhood-based recreational walking among older adults. A random sample of Calgary adults 50 years and older (n=884) participated in telephone and postal surveys that captured sense of community, dog-related factors, neighborhood walking, and demographic characteristics. Neighborhood characteristics (street layout, green space, population density, education, income, and dog population density) were also measured. Logistic regression odds ratios estimated the associations between dog-ownership and neighborhood characteristics and achieving 90 min/wk and 150 min/wk neighborhood-based recreational walking. Mediation and moderation by sense of community was also tested. Among the 25.9% who owned dogs, 57.9% walked their dogs frequently (4 times/wk or more). This group was also more likely to report high sense of community (OR=1.94, p<.05) and to achieve both 90 min/wk (OR=8.18, p<.05) and 150 min/wk (OR=10.68, p<.05) of neighborhood-based recreational walking. No evidence of mediation or moderation of neighborhood-based recreational walking by sense of community was found. Older adults who frequently walk dogs in their neighborhoods may benefit from both increased physical activity and heightened sense of community. Interventions promoting dog-walking in urban neighborhoods while supporting the specific walking needs of older adults may influence healthy aging.

Learning Areas:
Implementation of health education strategies, interventions and programs
Public health or related public policy
Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Describe the differences among dog-owners (50 yrs and older) who are frequent dog-walkers, those who are infrequent dog-walkers, and non-owners in terms of achieving weekly physical activity recommendations and experiencing positive feelings about their neighborhoods (i.e., sense of community). Identify strategies for leveraging dog-walking -- while considering relevant public policies, programs, and neighborhood characteristics -- as a means of promoting healthy aging in urban and sub-urban neighborhoods.

Keywords: Physical Activity, Mental Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I worked collaboratively with co-authors to finalize specific research objectives and to identify an appropriate analytic approach. I conducted the preliminary literature review, cleaned the data set and conducted data analysis. I prepared the initial version of the research paper, which was then distributed among co-authors for comments. I prepared and formatted a revised, final version of the manuscript which was approved by all co-authors.
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.