A socioecological analysis of participation in physical activity by rural-dwelling older adult women
Shotwell, Mary Patricia
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According to Wilcox et al. (2000), rural women are more sedentary than urban women and they identify more personal barriers to engagement in physical activity. Despite the use of tailored interventions, older adults have not improved their adherence to or adoption of physical activity behaviors over the past decade (CDC, 2002). The use of a socio-ecological framework similar to one proposed by McLeroy et al. (1988) may increase our understanding of individual, social, and environmental factors that influence physical activity in rural older women. The purpose of this study was to identify individual, environmental, and social factors that influence physical activity participation for older adult women living in rural Georgia. This case study employed the constant comparative method to analyze data collected from interviews, observations and document analysis. The community for the case was a moderate sized rural town in South Georgia. Findings indicate that there are individual, environmental, and social factors influencing physical activity participation. Individual factors include health, life context and personal attributes. Environmental factors are comprised of natural and structural characteristics of the community. Social factors include interpersonal support, organizational factors, and public images of older adults. Three conclusions were derived from this study. First, a combination of factors influences physical activity behaviors. Second, individual perceptions shape the depiction of a factor as a barrier or a facilitator. Third, women seem to adapt to the presence of barriers by shaping their environment to accomplish desired life activities. Implications for practice include the need for multilevel community health promotion. Research on the effectiveness of rural community health initiatives is indicated. Future research might also include an analysis of how aesthetics influences physical activity participation. Finally, gaining understanding of how older adults adapt to be able to engage in valued activities may enhance our ability to provide interventions that promote physical activity for older adults living in rural communities.