Naomi Schreuer, Ph.D, O.T. has 33 years of clinical experience with people with diverse disabilities, as an occupational therapist. She is currently the chair of the Department of Occupational Therapy, Faculty of Social Welfare & Health Sciences, University of Haifa. Her research emphasizes the importance of accessibility and supportive physical technological and social environments for enhancing participation of vulnerable populations in daily activities.
Background: Older adults are prone to a gradual reduction in participation in outdoor daily activities due to changes in their personal factors, travel patterns as well as urban barriers. Age friendly cities may minimize the effect of age-related changes in participation and enhance quality of life and the sense of being, doing and belonging.
Aim: To identify travel patterns and urban characteristics that are related to participation in outdoors activities of older adults.
Method: Two-hundred and sixty community dwelling older adults (< 65 years old, m= 75.4, SD= 7.0; 67.3% female) without a significant disability, participated. Participants were recruited from three cities: Hilly and High socioeconomic status - HillyHsc (N=95); Flat and Low socio-economic status - FlatLsc (N=83,); and Flat and High socioeconomic status – FlatHsc (N= 82). During one home session participants filled a demographic questionnaire, the Activity Card Sort that provides information regarding the level of participation maintained by the individual (in percent) and a travel questionnaire that queries about the transportation means used by the individual. Two-Way ANOVA with age and education as covariates (since significant differences were found between the cities) was performed to compare participation levels among the cities and travel patterns.
Results: Main travel patterns included: Car users (32.8%); Public Transportation users (27.0%); and users of both (40.2%). No significant differences in travel patterns were found among the cities. Regarding participation level a significant main effect for city was found [F=11.0, df=2, 253, p=.0001]; the highest level was maintained by FlatHsc participants (m=83.5%, SD= 22.5) than HillyHsc (m= 83.2%, SD= 21.3); and the lowest among FlatLsc (m=65.9%, SD= 22.4). In terms of walkability main effects were found for city [F=43.6, df=2, 250, p=.0001] and travel pattern [F=16.8, df=2, 250, p=.0001]; in FlatHsc participants performed significantly higher percentage of their activities while walking as compared to HillyHsc and FlatLsc (p< .0001) and public transportation users perform higher percentage of their activities while walking (p<.0001).
Conclusions: Despite the differences in topography characteristics between HillyHsc and FlatHsc, both have mixed land use of services and activities accessible for older adults thus can be considered as more age-friendly cities. The lower participation level in FlatLsc maybe be attributed to this city’s characteristics: activities centered in specific areas with long distances between them as well as hot climate with little shade. Results may illuminate urban characteristics that may help seeking ways to maintain and extend active lifestyle.