ISSUE ADDRESSED: A series of focus groups was conducted to explore older people's attitudes to, practices, and perceptions of physical activity, in order to inform the development of appropriate strategies to encourage participation among this population group. METHODS: Thirty five men and 46 women aged over 60, recruited through the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health, seniors' organizations and personal contacts in urban and rural areas of the Hunter Valley, participated in 11 focus groups. A semi-structured group interview explored relevant issues including current patterns of activity and understanding of the terms used in activity promotion, motivations and barriers, and appropriateness of current promotion strategies, including the 'Active Australia' campaign. RESULTS: The participants described a wide range of current activities. The most common were walking, gardening and housework. Participants were unsure what constituted 'adequate' activity but showed good understanding of the terms vigorous, moderate and light activity. Health, social support, doing something useful, environmental factors and avoiding the negative stereotypes of ageing were the main motivations for activity. Barriers included poor health; no-one to exercise with; inappropriate or unsafe environments and facilities; and lack of interest. Participants found existing media messages confusing, but supported the idea of campaigns encouraging older people to be active. CONCLUSIONS: These older people were interested in a wide range of physical activities, but suggested that lack of social support, poor facilities and concerns about safety were the major barriers to participation. SO WHAT?: This project identified factors which are pertinent to the promotion of physical activity among older people. The issues identified - the desire to maintain good health, a sense of social connectedness, and an ability to contribute, as well as the need for safe environments and appropriately trained exercise leaders - suggest strategies for the development of physical activity promotion campaigns for this group.
Health Promotion Journal of Australia Vol. 9, Issue 1, p. 55-63