Assoc. Prof. Dr. Diana Karanauskienė, Doctor of Social Sciences (Education), works at Lithuanian Sports University, Department of Physical and Social Education. She teaches Academic Ethics, Academic Writing and Research Methods (Qualitative Research). Her research interests include academic and sports ethics, academic literacy and healthy physically active aging. Together with co-authors she shares over 30 research publications in peer reviewed journals in international databases. She headed or was a member in seven scientific and study projects at national and international levels. She is a member of the International Editorial Board of the university research journal “Baltic Journal of Sport and Health Sciences”.
Towards healthy physically active aging: Considering the needs expressed by elderly people in assisted living and living independently
Diana Karanauskienė, Lithuanian Sports University, Kaunas, Lithuania
People, aged 60 and over, are the most physically inactive people in the society. Many elderly people are aware of the benefits of physical activity, but still are not physically active enough. The aim of study was to examine the perceived needs of physical activity (PA), and its perceived benefits and barriers in the elderly who live in a nursing home/assisted living and independently.
Data collection method was a semi-structured face-to-face interview. Data analysis method was qualitative content analysis. The research participants were 10 nursing home residents and 12 elderly people living independently in Lithuania and Finland, aged 60 – 93 years.
Most of the participants living in nursing homes and independently were not engaged in sufficient physical activity, though they would like to have more physical exercise during the day. Physiotherapy, handwork, outdoor exercise, household chores and daily routines were mentioned as most common everyday activities among nursing home residents. For those living independently, physical activity was usually related to the routine and household work, and sometimes with the short exercises or activity in the nature. If the activities of people in the childhood and youth were both organized and unorganized, there was almost no organized activity left in the older age. A much more enjoyable activity was reading or watching television.
Elderly people both in assisted living and living independently demonstrated high health literacy as they were aware of benefits of physical activity. Major perceived health benefits were maintaining physical activity level, maintaining good health condition, increasing physical strength, improving mental health, relaxation and pleasure.
The most common health perceived barriers to physical activity were poor physical condition, inadequate mental condition, and age-related restrictions, though some of them could be modified or healed via exercise. The closest people did not have any effect or had a positive effect and encouraged them to be physically active. However, physical activity level of people in the nursing home was low due to inadequate care of staff and facilities which do not allow elderly people to stay active.
Elderly people are willing to participate in physical activity if they perceive more health-related benefits than barriers. They have high health literacy and are aware of the benefits, but poor health condition was mentioned as a barrier to exercise. Participants reported that they recognized the importance of physical activity in maintaining health and physical function, but they needed help both living independently and in assisted living. They wanted staff of the nursing home and their close people to be more helpful in increasing their physical activity.