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Project Details

Activity in Older Adults: A Healthy Aging Research Network Study

Photo of active older adults
Project Summary: 

How does neighborhood "walkability” influence patterns of activity in older adults?

This national study involved nearly 1,000 older adults in four diverse areas of the country (California, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and North Carolina). Researchers examined the relationship between elements of the built environment (e.g., level of density and use), levels of functional capacity (e.g., lower-body strength and balance), and levels of walking (e.g., frequency, distance, location, and destination) among adults age 65 and older. They determined how the level of functional capacity affects the relationship between the built environment and the levels of walking among older adults. This is a project under the Healthy Aging Network (HAN), a group of nine universities working together on research topics related to healthy aging, including physical activity in older adults, cognitive health, depression, and nutrition.

Main Findings: 
  • People who lived close to shops, restaurants, and other conveniences walked more than people who lived in suburban areas.
  • People who felt their neighborhoods were safe walked more than people who did not.
  • People who were healthier walked more. People who felt tired or had leg pain walked less.
Policy, Practice or Research Impacts: 

This was the first study to investigate how functional status moderates the association between the built environment and physical activity in older adults. Few other studies have examined the effect of the built environment on physical activity in older adults. Such research can inform community design and planning to encourage increased activity for the large number of aging Americans.

Project Type: 
Contact Person: 
Elaine Kurtovich
Contact Person's Email Address:
Health Research for Action, UC Berkeley
Principal Investigators: 
Professor Bill Satariano
Research Publications and Reports: 

Satariano WA, Ivey SL, Kurtovich E, Kealey M, Hubbard AE, Bayles CM, Bryant LL, Hunter RH, Prohaska TR. Lower-body function, neighborhoods, and walking in an older population. Am J Prev Med. 2010 Apr;38(4):419-28. PubMed PMID: 20307811.

Prohaska TR, Eisenstein AR, Satariano WA, Hunter R, Bayles CM, Kurtovich E, Kealey M, Ivey SL. Walking and the preservation of cognitive function in older populations. Gerontologist 2009 Jun;49 Suppl 1:S86-93. PubMed PMID: 19525221.

CDC, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Active Living Research program
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