Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Inactivity Among Older Adults in Canada

Numerous research studies and policies maintain the relationship between the use of regular physical activity and improvement in overall quality of aging. Conversely, chronic inactivity is associated with negative  health outcomes.  The longer older adults remain inactive and participate in a sedentary lifestyle the more likely they are to experience accelerated losses in physical fitness, health and function that will eventually lead to the following:
1.    Render them more dependent on care from others;
2.    Put them at higher risk for several chronic conditions and debilitating diseases;
3.    Make them less likely to pursue leisure-time physical activity; and
4.    Increase their likelihood of consuming larger amounts of health & primary care resources and expense.

Health Canada (2002, p. 3) reports segments of the older adult population are particularly vulnerable to reduced levels of participation and encounter more barriers to physical activity than others in the same age category. They are:
·       Older adults with low incomes or low education levels;
·       Older adults 75 years and over;
·       Older adults living in institutions;
·       Older adults with illness, disabilities or chronic diseases;
·       Female older adults.

Infrequent participation in physical activity is higher in this age bracket for women than it is for men. Women tend to be involved in forms of activities, careers and lifestyles that require less exertion than men do. Older adults considered isolated due to location or lack of social support networks are profoundly at risk.

The most recent edition of the National Advisory Council on Aging publication, Seniors in Canada Report Card 2006 maintains the majority of older adults in Canada are inactive (less than 15 minutes of moderate exercise or <1.5 KKD/day). This inactive trend has changed very little among seniors since the last publication of the Report Card in 2001, even though ample research supports that regular participation in physical activity improves overall quality of life in old age seniors remain inactive. The rate of inactivity among seniors in 2005 was 62%.

The rate of inactivity among males actually increased from 53% to 55% between 2000-01 and 2005. The rate of inactivity for females in 2005 was even higher at 67%. This trend of inactivity increases even more as women age. Over three quarters of women aged 75 years and older were considered inactive in 2005 (2006, p.11).


The Seniors Report Card 2006 highlights that this lack of physical activity is the result of many factors and barriers encountered by seniors who may want to be more active. In many cases physical activity is simply not incorporated into day-to-day living due to a lack of awareness around its importance in later life, or due to ageist attitudes that still negate its relevance. To help address this inactive lifestyle
the National Advisory Council on Aging (2006, p13) suggests that the following priorities for action aimed at improving the health of older adults as it relates to physical activity should be adopted:
·       Improve chronic disease management (e.g. self management and community supports to adopt healthier lifestyles);
·       Improve personal health practices (e.g. regular physical activity and healthy eating);
·       Strengthen prevention programs for falls and injuries.

Physical activity for older adults is not a new component of both government and non-government policy statements and commitments in Canada. The goals of the Pan Canadian Integrated: Healthy
·       Living Strategy adopted in 2005 are to improve overall health outcomes and to reduce health disparities.
·       The physical activity goal indicated in the strategy is:
o   By 2015, increase by 20% the proportion of Canadians who participate in regular physical activity based on 30 minutes/day of moderate to vigorous activity as measured by the CCHS and the Physical Activity Benchmarks/Monitoring Program (Government of Canada, 2005, p. 10).

In 1999, the Active Living Coalition for Older Adults released the document Moving Through the Years: A Blueprint for Action for Active Living and Older Adults. The Blueprint for Action presents guiding principles, and identifies priority goals:
·       Increase public awareness about the benefits of active living;
·       Develop competent leaders in active living who can meet the needs and interests of the older adult;
·       Support and encourage seniors’ desire to embrace an active lifestyle by ensuring that resources and social supports are in place;
·       Strengthen delivery systems and improve levels of cooperation, coordination and communication among interested organizations;
·       Encourage and enable older adults to advocate for a quality of life that includes physical activity, well-being and opportunities for active living;
·       Identify, support and share research priorities and results; and

·       Continually monitor and evaluate programs, services and outcomes (ALCOA 1999, p.5). Future directions may need

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