Towards co-designing active ageing strategies: A qualitative study to develop a meaningful physical activity typology for later life.

04 May 2018

BACKGROUND: Physical activity levels decline in later life despite the known benefits for physical, cognitive and mental health. Older people find it difficult to meet activity targets; therefore, more realistic and meaningful strategies are needed. We aimed to develop a typology of older people's motivations and lifelong habits of being active as a starting point to co-designing active ageing strategies in a workshop. METHODS: We conducted semi-structured interviews with 27 participants aged 65-80 in Norfolk, UK, and participant observation with 17 of them. At a workshop with 13 study participants and 6 government and civil society representatives, we invited reflections on preliminary findings. RESULTS: Three types were developed. "Exercisers" had engaged in sport and exercise throughout their life but experienced physical ill health and limitations as barriers. "Out-and-about-ers" pursued social engagement and a variety of interests but experienced biographical disruption through retirement and loss of companions that limited social activities in later life. A final type characterized people who preferred "sedentary/solitary" activities. A workshop elicited suggestions for new strategies relating to these types that addressed people's specific motivations. An example was to combine social engagement and physical activity in "dog-parent"-walking schemes to link people through shared responsibility for a dog. CONCLUSIONS: We suggest that these potential strategies map more closely onto the everyday life-worlds in which public health might seek to intervene than common physical activity interventions. Most notably, this means a more differentiated understanding of barriers, and acknowledging that intellectual, social or solitary pursuits can include incidental physical activity.