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Environmental facilitators for outdoor walking and development of walking difficulty in community-dwelling older adults

Abstract

Older adults who report environmental barriers in their neighborhood have a higher risk for walking difficulty. However, environmental facilitators that protect against walking difficulty are not well known. The objective of this study was to identify the effect of environmental facilitators for outdoor walking on development of walking difficulty in community-dwelling older people. This was a prospective study with a 3.5-year follow-up time on 261 community-dwelling people aged 75–81 years, who at baseline were able to walk 0.5 km without difficulty. Environmental facilitators for outdoor walking were self-reported with standardized questionnaires, including having features in one’s home which make it easy to access the outdoors, having a park or other green area within a walking distance from home, having outdoor recreational facilities within a walking distance from home, having features in the nearby environment, which are attractive for outdoor activities, and perceiving the surrounding environment or facilities nearby as motivating factors for physical activity. Self-reported difficulty in walking 0.5 km was assessed every 6 months. Of the participants, 46 % developed walking difficulty during the follow-up. Having a park or other green area within a walking distance from home was the most frequently reported facilitator. Environmental facilitators decreased the risk for development of walking difficulty, hazard ratio per item 0.86, (95 % confidence interval 0.73–1.02). The results indicate that the mobility of older community-dwelling people may be promoted with outdoor recreational facilities that are easy to access and located within a walking distance from home.

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Acknowledgments

This study was funded by the University of Jyväskylä, Finland; Juho Vainio Foundation, Finland; Ministry of Education and Culture, Finland and the Finnish Cultural Foundation, Central Finland Regional fund. Mikaela B von Bonsdorff was supported by the Academy of Finland Grant Number 257239.

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Correspondence to Johanna Eronen.

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Responsible Editor: H.-W. Wahl.

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Eronen, J., von Bonsdorff, M., Rantakokko, M. et al. Environmental facilitators for outdoor walking and development of walking difficulty in community-dwelling older adults. Eur J Ageing 11, 67–75 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10433-013-0283-7

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10433-013-0283-7

Keywords

  • Environmental facilitators
  • Outdoor walking
  • Walking difficulty
  • Mobility