Physical activity (PA) is an integral part of successful aging. However, many older adults (OAs) are not meeting current PA recommendations.
To assess the PA needs, preferences, and practices of community-residing OAs.
Study Design, Setting, Participants
This qualitative study assessed the PA needs and preferences of 117 community-residing OAs. Thirteen focus groups (FG) were held in Iowa (IA, 5 FG) and Washington, DC (DC, 8 FG). FG discussions centered on perceived PA needs, motivators and barriers, and preferred PA programming attributes. Each FG was audio-recorded. Participants also completed a sociodemographic survey. IA participants (n = 51) were recruited at congregate meal sites while DC participants (n = 66) were recruited from 2 OAs volunteer programs.
FG recordings were transcribed verbatim and reviewed for major themes using standard theme analysis protocols. Sociodemographic data were analyzed using descriptive statistics. Kruskal-Wallis H Test assessed between group differences for sociodemographic attributes (P < .05).
The mean age of participants was 74.4 ± 7.0 years. Participants were mostly educated (77.2%) females (83.1%) in “average or higher” health (84.8%). IA participants were more educated than DC participants (P < .0001). The sample was diverse (44.2% White, 38.9% Black). DC was more diverse (P < .0001). Nearly one-third were widowed (30.5%). Almost one-half (46.6%) classified their PA level as “somewhat high” to “high” with 63.6% claiming to have participated in regular exercise in the last 3 months. DC participants reported a higher exercise participation rate (P = .008). PA motivators were socialization and health benefits. PA barriers were pain, limited disposable income, health limitations, and low motivation. Preferred PA programming attributes included group-based, expert-led, and age-appropriate (eg, walking [IA], dancing [DC]).
This sample of community-residing OAs are not meeting PA recommendations. The perceived PA needs and preferences were similar regardless of being rural- or urban-residing. These findings provide useful information to better enable tailoring of PA messaging and programming for community-residing OAs.