Journal of General Internal Medicine

, Volume 20, Issue 10, pp 911–915 | Cite as

The relationship between expectations for aging and physical activity among older adults

  • Catherine A. Sarkisian
  • Thomas R. Prohaska
  • Mitchell D. Wong
  • Susan Hirsch
  • Carol M. Mangione
Original Articles


BACKGROUND: New strategies to increase physical activity among sedentary older adults are urgently needed.

OBJECTIVE: To examine whether low expectations regarding aging (age-expectations) are associated with low physical activity levels among older adults.

DESIGN: Cross-sectional survey.

PARTICIPANTS: Six hundred and thirty-six English- and Spanish-speaking adults aged 65 years and above attending 14 community-based senior centers in the Los Angeles region. Over 44% were non-Latino whites, 15% were African American, and 36% were Latino. The mean age was 77 years (range 65 to 100).

MEASUREMENTS: Self-administered written surveys including previously tested measures of age-expectations and physical activity level in the previous week.

RESULTS: Over 38% of participants reported <30 minutes of moderate-vigorous physical activity in the previous week. Older adults with lower age-expectations were more likely to report this very low level of physical activity than those with high age-expectations, even after controlling for the independent effect of age, sex, ethnicity, level of education, physical and mental health-related quality of life, comorbidity, activities of daily living impairment, depressive symptoms, self-efficacy, survey language, and clustering at the senior center. Compared with the quintile of participants having the highest age-expectations, participants with the lowest quintile of age-expectations had an adjusted odds ratio of 2.6 (95% confidence intervals: 1.5, 4.5) of reporting <30 minutes of moderate-vigorous physical activity in the previous week.

CONCLUSIONS: In this diverse sample of older adults recruited from senior centers, low age-expectations are independently associated with very low levels of physical activity. Harboring low age-expectations may act as a barrier to physical activity among sedentary older adults.

Key Words

attitude to health aged exercise survey health behavior 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    National Blueprint: Increasing physical activity among adults age 50 and older. J Aging Phys Act. 2001;9(suppl):1–96.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Brown DR, Yore MM, Ham SA, Macera CA. Physical activity among adults ≥ yr with and without disabilities, RBRSS 2001. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2005;37:620–9.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Kart C. Experiencing symptoms: attribution and misattribution of illness among the aged. In: Hug M, ed. Elderly Patients and their Doctors. New York, NY: Springer; 1981.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Williamson JD, Fried LP. Characterization of older adults who attribute functional decrements to “old age.”. J Am Geriatr Soc. 1996;44:1429–34.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Sarkisian CA, Liu H, Ensrud KE, Stone KL, Mangione CM. Correlates of attributing new disability to old age. Study of Osteoporotic Fractures Research Group. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2001;49:134–41.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Rakowski W, Hickey T. Mortality and the attribution of health problems to aging among older adults. Am J Public Health. 1992;82:1139–41.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Levy BR, Slade MD, Kunkel SR, Kasl SV. Longevity increased by positive self-perceptions of aging. J Pers Soc Psychol. 2002;83:261–70.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Prohaska TR, Keller ML, Leventhal EA, Leventhal H. Impact of symptoms and aging attribution on emotions and coping. Health Psychol. 1987;6:495–514.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Sarkisian CA, Hays RD, Mangione CM. Do older adults expect to age successfully? The association between expectations regarding aging and beliefs regarding healthcare seeking among older adults. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2002;50:1837–43.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Goodwin JS, Black SA, Satish S. Aging versus disease: the opinions of older black, Hispanic, and non-Hispanic white Americans about the causes and treatment of common medical conditions. J Am Geriatr Soc. 1999;47:973–9.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Sarkisian CA, Hays RD, Berry S, Mangione CM. Development, reliability, and validity of the expectations regarding aging (ERA-38) survey. Gerontologist. 2002;42:534–42.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Lorig KR, Stewart AL, Ritter P, Gonzales V, Laurent D, Lynch J. Outcome Measures for Health Education and Other Health Care Interventions. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications Inc; 1996.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Brawley LR, Rejeski WJ, King AC. Promoting physical activity for older adults: the challenges for changing behavior. Am J Prev Med. 2003;25(Suppl 2):172–83.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Ware J Jr., Kosinski M, Keller SD. A 12-item short-form health survey: construction of scales and preliminary tests of reliability and validity. Med Care. 1996;34:220–33.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Katz JN, Chang LC, Sangha O, Fossel AH, Bates DW. Can comorbidity be measured by questionnaire rather than medical record review? Med Care. 1996;34:73–84.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Katz S, Ford AB, Moskowitz RW, Jackson BA, Jaffe MW. Studies of illness in the aged. The index of Adl: a standardized measure of biological and psychosocial function. JAMA. 1963;185:914–9.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Lawton MP, Brody EM. Assessment of older people: self-maintaining and instrumental activities of daily living. Gerontologist. 1969;9:179–86.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Hoyl MT, Alessi CA, Harker JO, et al. Development and testing of a five-item version of the Geriatric Depression Scale. J Am Geriatr Soc. 1999;47:873–8.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Pearlin LI, Lieberman MA, Menaghan EG, Mullan JT. The stress process. J Health Soc Behav. 1981;22:337–56.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Huber PJ. The behavior of maximum likelihood estimates under nonstandard conditions. Proceedings of the Fifth Berkeley Symposium on Mathematical Statistics and Probability, Berkeley; 1967:221.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Addy CL, Wilson DK, Kirtland KA, Ainsworth BE, Sharpe P, Kimsey D. Associations of perceived social and physical environmental supports with physical activity and walking behavior. Am J Public Health. 2004;94:440–3.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Society of General Internal Medicine 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Catherine A. Sarkisian
    • 3
  • Thomas R. Prohaska
    • 1
  • Mitchell D. Wong
    • 2
  • Susan Hirsch
    • 3
  • Carol M. Mangione
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Community Health Sciences, School of Public HealthUniversity of Illinois at ChicagoUSA
  2. 2.Department of Medicine, Division of General Internal Medicine and Health Services ResearchDavid Geffen School of Medicine at UCLALos AngelesUSA
  3. 3.Department of Medicine, Division of GeriatricsDavid Geffen School of Medicine at UCLALos Angeles

Personalised recommendations