‘Keeping your body and mind active’: an ethnographic study of aspirations for healthy ageing
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Guell-Unwin, C., Shefer, G., Griffin, S., & Ogilvie, D. (2016). ‘Keeping your body and mind active’: an ethnographic study of aspirations for healthy ageing. BMJ Open, 6 (e009973)https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2015-009973
OBJECTIVE: To describe and explore perceptions, practices and motivations of active living in later life. DESIGN: Qualitative study with semistructured interviews and ‘semistructured’ participant observations of participant-selected activities such as exercise classes, private or organised walks, shopping and gardening. PARTICIPANTS: 27 participants (65-80 years of age) from the EPIC-Norfolk study, purposefully selected by gender, age, occupational class, living status, and residential location; 19 of the participants agreed to be joined for observed activities. Setting Participants’ homes, neighbourhoods, places of leisure activities, and workplaces in Norfolk, England. RESULTS: All participants regarded a positive attitude as important for healthy ageing; this included staying active, both physically and mentally through sedentary activities such as reading and crosswords. ‘Getting out of the house’, being busy, or following a variety of interests were regarded as both important motivators and descriptions of their ‘activeness’. Purposeful activities formed an important part of this, for example still being engaged in paid or voluntary work, having caring responsibilities, or smaller incidental activities such as helping neighbours or walking for transport. Many also reported adapting previous, often lifelong, activity preferences and habits to their ageing body, or replacing them altogether with lower impact activities such as walking. This included adapting to the physical limitations of partners and friends which dictated the intensity and frequency of shared activities. The social context of activities could thus form a barrier to active living, but could also encourage it through companionship, social responsibilities and social pressures. CONCLUSIONS: Promoting and maintaining physical activity among older people may require more attention to activeness as an attitude and way of life as well as to its social context, and initiatives encouraging broader activity habits rather than discrete activities.
qualitative research, physical activity, ageing, social context
This work was supported by the UK Research Councils’ Lifelong Health and Wellbeing (LLHW) Initiative in partnership with the Department of Health [grant number MR/K025147/1]; LLHW is led by the Medical Research Council. The work was undertaken under the auspices of the Centre for Diet and Activity Research (CEDAR), a UKCRC Public Health Research Centre of Excellence which is funded by the British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK, Economic and Social Research Council, Medical Research Council, the National Institute for Health Research, and the Wellcome Trust. SG and DO are also supported by the Medical Research Council [Unit programme numbers MC_UU_12015/4 and MC_UU_12015/6].
Wellcome Trust (087636/Z/08/Z)
Medical Research Council (MC_U106179474)
External DOI: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2015-009973
This record's URL: https://www.repository.cam.ac.uk/handle/1810/252501
Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
Licence URL: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/