"More of the same is not enough": New Directions in Ageing and Physical Activity

Lead Research Organisation: University of Exeter
Department Name: University of Exeter Medical School

Abstract

The issue:

There are currently more people over the age of 60 than ever before. The Office of National Statistics have projected that the number of people age 60 years and over will increase by 50% in the next 25 years. These demographic changes are important because people generally become less physically active as they grow older. This can be detrimental to their health and well-being and has subsequent health and social care costs.
Researchers have been investigating the relationship between physical activity and health for a long time. Consequently, much is known about which diseases can be prevented through physical activity, and how much and how often activity should be undertaken. This information is useful, but it does not negate the fact that there are still lots of older people who are inactive.

Recently, leading scientists have said that if we are to encourage people to integrate health behaviours like physical activity into their everyday life, conducting research to reconfirm that physical activity is beneficial is not enough. Instead, they say that we need to know more about the different environments, which can enable or deter physical activity in older age and shape how it is experienced. This includes people's physical environments (e.g. their access and proximity to woodlands, parks etc.) and also their social and cultural environments (e.g. the impact of their ethnicity, gender, interaction with healthcare etc.). Social scientists are well qualified to investigate issues like these.

Our response:

Our seminar series will bring together academics from different subject areas (e.g. sociology, psychology, geography, sport and health sciences), policy makers, health and social care practitioners, physical activity and sport providers, and those working within the voluntary and statutory sectors. Each seminar will focus on a specific issue relevant to the physical, social and cultural environments that can impact upon physical activity (PA) in older age. Specifically; (i)competitive sport in later life, (ii)physical activity during lifecourse transitions, (iii)how gender impacts upon physical activity involvement - and vice versa, (iv)experiences of physical activity amongst hard to reach groups (e.g. ethnic minorities), (v)community based initiatives to promote physical activity, (vi)E-health, (vii)PA in the outdoor natural environment, (viii)the process of using research to inform policy and practice.

Leading experts from the UK and abroad will share their knowledge and direct discussions with seminar participants. This process will advance what we currently know about the topic and also identify aspects that we don't know about that require more research. It will also enable a large group of people (from research, policy and practice backgrounds) with a shared commitment to healthy ageing to establish themselves as a 'network'. The network members will continue to communicate and collaborate with each other both during and beyond the lifetime of the seminar series.

Who will benefit and how:

The seminar series is intended to have strong and distinctive impacts in academic, policy and user communities. This will be achieved by advancing understanding of (i)physical activity engagement in older age in ways that go beyond 'how much' and 'how often', (ii)the value of using different disciplines (i.e. subject areas) and research methods to generate knowledge about this topic. Policy contributions will be made regarding how best to promote healthy ageing, through physical activity involvement. Impact will also occur through the inclusion of older participants in the co-production of research knowledge, and in the training of early career researchers to continue championing this research area. Working closely with Core Partners (British Heart Foundation, Birmingham Public Health, Sporting Equals) will enhance the research teams understanding of the relationship between research and policy.

Planned Impact

The seminar series will create the first substantive contribution in its area. It will establish new directions in research and practice around ageing and physical activity (PA) through a focus on how social, cultural and physical environments can enable and deter activity happening and shape how it is experienced.

To maximise the impact, we have engaged with partners throughout its design. Initial discussions took place at the Moving Stories project (Ref: ES/I009779/1) end of award event held in July 2013. Non-academic beneficiaries are numerous and varied (e.g. AgeUK, Sport England, Sporting Equals, Women's Sport and Fitness Foundation, Natural England, Ramblers Association, National Trust, British Heart Foundation). Many will contribute to the programme as invited speakers and continue their involvement throughout the execution and dissemination stages of the series.

Main beneficiaries and how will they benefit from the seminar series? (refer also to Academic Beneficiaries, Pathways to Impact, Case for Support):

1) NHS/Public Health: The seminars will provide discussion and clarification of evidence and facilitate the development of transferable, systematic research methodologies. This will allow bodies such as the new local Health and Wellbeing Boards to tailor their evidence, communication and practice regarding PA in older age (e.g. Seminars 1,2,4,5,8). A focus on E/M-Health (e.g. Seminar 6) will be especially valuable for attempts to design and implement increasingly cost effective forms of (preventative) health care.

2) Social care: The outcomes of these seminars will provide the resources needed to identify environments, which are welcoming to older adults within specific social groups, and communities (e.g. certain ethic groups, gender, care settings), who are typically excluded from PA interventions and therefore the benefits they may afford (e.g. Seminars 3,4).

3) Local authorities (e.g. Sport Partnerships, Environment & Planning departments): Seminars will help to inform local and regional programmes aimed at improving community health and wellbeing through the provision of opportunities to be PA (e.g. Seminars 2,5), including those associated with green infrastructure, environmental interventions, open space and access (e.g. Seminar 7).

4) Business and Industry (including sports clubs, leisure providers): Understanding social, cultural and physical environments that impact on older adults experiences of and involvement in PA has direct relevance to marketing strategies and product / service development (e.g. Seminars 1,2,3). Impact here will be further realised through two additional 'Business & Enterprise' events hosted by the University of Exeter (refer to Pathways to Impact, Justification of Resources).

5) Community Groups: Good quality evidence could be used to justify and support community group applications for funding for the preservation and development of local activity groups (as proposed under the Localism Bill). These groups will also benefit from knowledge of evidence-informed community-based initiatives designed to promote active ageing (e.g. Seminar 4). The applicants have established relationships with a variety of Community Groups (e.g. Cornwall Neighbourhoods for Change, Westbank Healthy Living Centre).

6) Government departments (e.g. Department of Health [primary]; Department of Work & Pensions [secondary]) tasked with managing and protecting the wellbeing of older adults particularly through PA: Value will be derived in the ways outlined above. In addition, the seminars will provide a forum for policy perspectives and evidence needs relative to PA in older age to be identified and where appropriate, critiqued, in order to ensure effective distribution of resources (e.g. Seminar 8).

The translation of knowledge to our beneficiaries will be supported through the appointment of a Knowledge Transfer Fellow (refer to Pathways to Impact; Justification of Resources).

Publications


10 25 50

Related Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Award Value
ES/M001709/1 01/10/2014 03/01/2016 £30,013
ES/M001709/2 Transfer ES/M001709/1 04/01/2016 31/12/2017 £20,457
 
Description NB - THIS AWARD WAS TRANSFERRED FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF EXETER IN JANUARY 2016. NEW REFERENCE "RES/M001709/2" THIS IS NOT A SEPARATE AWARD AND ALL KEY FINDINGS, IMPACTS ETC. ARE LISTED IN THIS ENTRY.

We have held 6 of the 8 proposed seminars and have the remaining 2 scheduled for April and June 2017.

A number of key issues have been identified at the intersection of physical activity in older age with a range of specific contexts. For example:

"Physical activity 'career' as a life course perspective":

1) 'Build it and they will come!' (won't they?): Beware of an often underlying assumption that leisure time physical activity is attractive and interesting to people. While individuals might be fully aware of the benefits of being physically active and have access to opportunities to participate, this does not necessarily translate into health behaviours. Given this, focusing attention more explicitly on active daily living (stair climbing, getting out the house etc.) across the life course cas opposed to engagement in sport or organised physical activity during certain periods might be more fruitful.

2) A holistic, participatory approach to healthy ageing across the life course: Some of the most successful programs (e.g. 'Movers and Shakers', Buckinghamshire http://bit.ly/1ESrABV) are those that do not limit themselves to physical activity alone, but incorporate other aspects of healthy ageing (e.g. nutritional advice, social interaction). They are also generated and led from within the communities that they are intended to benefit. Activity initiatives with top-down design and delivery have not attracted people from lower socioeconomic groups, nor migrant populations.

3) From research to practise (and back again): End users benefit when quality, mutually beneficial relationships exist between the research team and the stakeholder community. Methods by which to optimise this include; secondments, networking events to exchange information (such as the current seminar series!), and involving representatives from key user groups at the planning stage of any research project (as opposed to after the funding has been awarded).

4) Innovation and evidence There is a real appetite for new models of access, delivery and intervening to enhance the opportunities that people have to be active in older age to be explored and, most importantly, evaluated (the Penwith Pioneer Project, Newquay Cornwall being one such example http://bit.ly/17VelGz ). Programme evaluation which is planned from the outset, appropriately financed, independent, and incorporates a divergent range of approaches and methodologies, is imperative to the continued delivery and, where appropriate, expansion of community based initiatives that can facilitate physical activity across the life course.

"Learning from the Masters: The relationship between sport and physical activity in later life":

1) Cost is not always the barrier that is often put forward to explain low physical activity participation among excluded population groups. Explanations are more diverse and complex.

2) Being a Master athlete can be understood as a 'career' - with a trigger, key landmarks, the development of new social relationships and specialised training - although in most cases it's not a well laid plan right from the start. It happens and then takes on a life of its own. The same applies to any sustained engagement with physical activity.

3) Specific structures (adapted physical activity classes, sports initiatives, coaching structures, competitions) are required to make physical activity an integral part of life. For instance Jogscotland has proven successful among women aged 35-50.These structures also enable people to lay a claim to a physical activity identity, which helps maintain involvement.

4) We heard many stories of life enrichment and emancipation via sport and physical activity, especially among women, but this required being very determined and single-minded to resist ageist and sexist attitudes. For instance we heard the story of an older Swedish woman who formed a ladies' ski club in her town because she was the only competitive skier of her gender and age. More generally people need to feel that they have permission to take up a formal or informal physical activity and to continue on their chosen path.

5) Other people can play a key role, as mentors, givers of permission, givers of inspiration, team mates. Conversely they can discourage or even forbid. Thus other people matter.

6) Being involved is not always about winning. Performance can be given meaning in many different ways. It often gives people a great sense of empowerment and gives them confidence in other aspects of their lives. It can also mean helping others find their own path into sport or physical activity by coaching and actively supporting. Being involved is not always about health either. Health concerns might be a trigger but they can be left behind as the career takes on a life of its own.

7) Injuries can compromise sporting careers at any point. Health care professionals need to be supportive of people who develop injuries to enable them to return to full participation.

"Men, ageing and physical activity: Critical reflections":

1) Public health initiatives in the UK are often innovative and always well intentioned, but tend to ignore the specific gendered needs older men have. Such needs included having to deal with an ageing body and gaining intimacy from others whilst dealing with prevailing standards of hegemonic masculinity.

2) Men who are invested in sports can experience particular difficulty with ageing; from an unexpected loss of control over the body, a growing awareness of its functional limitations and negotiating within these changing parameters to maintain ones sense of competitive vitality.

3) Within a masculinities framework as Greying Masculinities, which as well as positioning aging men as being in decline can also offer possibilities for reinvention, such as becoming wiser and more in tune with one's body. He also discussed how exercise can be promoted differently from the mere pursuit of the body beautiful, rather to emphasise the simple benefits of the enjoyment that can be gained from the sensuality of exercise.
Exploitation Route To early to say (the award is still active)
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Healthcare,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism
URL http://www.seminars.ecehh.org
 
Description With over 12 months remaining on this award, our contribution to impact remains in its early stages. The seminars have enabled our networks to be expanded and interactions with key stakeholders to occur on a regular basis. For example, Dave Terrace (Lead in Health & Wellbeing at AgeUK) has attended two of the four seminars and is becoming increasingly aware of the research area and how it might feed in to AgeUK Strategy. In April, on the back of the Seminar Series, we will formally launch the AgeingPA blog. This will provide a forum for sharing (among other relevant information) the key messages arising across the seminar series to user groups and stakeholders, while also inviting input on how best our research can respond to their needs. These are both impact priming activities and ones we intend to capitalise on for the remains of the series and beyond.
First Year Of Impact 2015
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Education,Healthcare,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism
Impact Types Societal
 
Description Research for Patient Benefit (co-applicant)
Amount £250,000 (GBP)
Funding ID PB-PG-0214-33020 
Organisation National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK)
Start 05/2014 
End 07/2015
 
Description Ageing and Physical Activity Network 
Organisation Birmingham City Council
Department Public Health Birmingham
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution I led collaborations with the above partners to establish a Ageing and Physical Activity Network. The purpose of this network was to build upon findings from the current project (and other recent literature), which calls for a more critical approach to be taken when researching later life physical activity. As primary investigator, I was successful in securing funding (£30k) for 8 seminars around this topic from the ESRC Seminar Series Scheme.
Collaborator Contribution Contributions were made in the from of disciplinary expertise, previous experience in applying for research funding (Brunel, Birmingham) and the sharing of contacts / established partnerships.
Impact (1/10/14 - 1/6/17). ESRC Seminar Series. (£30k) More of the Same is not Enough: New Directions in Ageing and Physical Activity. (with Wheeler, Victor, Thompson, Tulle, Piggin, Gough, Orr).
Start Year 2013
 
Description Ageing and Physical Activity Network 
Organisation Brunel University
Department Brunel Institute for Ageing Studies (BIAS)
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution I led collaborations with the above partners to establish a Ageing and Physical Activity Network. The purpose of this network was to build upon findings from the current project (and other recent literature), which calls for a more critical approach to be taken when researching later life physical activity. As primary investigator, I was successful in securing funding (£30k) for 8 seminars around this topic from the ESRC Seminar Series Scheme.
Collaborator Contribution Contributions were made in the from of disciplinary expertise, previous experience in applying for research funding (Brunel, Birmingham) and the sharing of contacts / established partnerships.
Impact (1/10/14 - 1/6/17). ESRC Seminar Series. (£30k) More of the Same is not Enough: New Directions in Ageing and Physical Activity. (with Wheeler, Victor, Thompson, Tulle, Piggin, Gough, Orr).
Start Year 2013
 
Description Ageing and Physical Activity Network 
Organisation Leeds Metropolitan University
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution I led collaborations with the above partners to establish a Ageing and Physical Activity Network. The purpose of this network was to build upon findings from the current project (and other recent literature), which calls for a more critical approach to be taken when researching later life physical activity. As primary investigator, I was successful in securing funding (£30k) for 8 seminars around this topic from the ESRC Seminar Series Scheme.
Collaborator Contribution Contributions were made in the from of disciplinary expertise, previous experience in applying for research funding (Brunel, Birmingham) and the sharing of contacts / established partnerships.
Impact (1/10/14 - 1/6/17). ESRC Seminar Series. (£30k) More of the Same is not Enough: New Directions in Ageing and Physical Activity. (with Wheeler, Victor, Thompson, Tulle, Piggin, Gough, Orr).
Start Year 2013
 
Description Ageing and Physical Activity Network 
Organisation Loughborough University
Department School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences (SSEHS)
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution I led collaborations with the above partners to establish a Ageing and Physical Activity Network. The purpose of this network was to build upon findings from the current project (and other recent literature), which calls for a more critical approach to be taken when researching later life physical activity. As primary investigator, I was successful in securing funding (£30k) for 8 seminars around this topic from the ESRC Seminar Series Scheme.
Collaborator Contribution Contributions were made in the from of disciplinary expertise, previous experience in applying for research funding (Brunel, Birmingham) and the sharing of contacts / established partnerships.
Impact (1/10/14 - 1/6/17). ESRC Seminar Series. (£30k) More of the Same is not Enough: New Directions in Ageing and Physical Activity. (with Wheeler, Victor, Thompson, Tulle, Piggin, Gough, Orr).
Start Year 2013
 
Description Ageing and Physical Activity Network 
Organisation School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences
Department British Heart Foundation National Centre for Physical Activity and Health (BHFNC)
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution I led collaborations with the above partners to establish a Ageing and Physical Activity Network. The purpose of this network was to build upon findings from the current project (and other recent literature), which calls for a more critical approach to be taken when researching later life physical activity. As primary investigator, I was successful in securing funding (£30k) for 8 seminars around this topic from the ESRC Seminar Series Scheme.
Collaborator Contribution Contributions were made in the from of disciplinary expertise, previous experience in applying for research funding (Brunel, Birmingham) and the sharing of contacts / established partnerships.
Impact (1/10/14 - 1/6/17). ESRC Seminar Series. (£30k) More of the Same is not Enough: New Directions in Ageing and Physical Activity. (with Wheeler, Victor, Thompson, Tulle, Piggin, Gough, Orr).
Start Year 2013
 
Description Ageing and Physical Activity Network 
Organisation University of Birmingham
Department School of Sport and Exercise Sciences Birmingham
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution I led collaborations with the above partners to establish a Ageing and Physical Activity Network. The purpose of this network was to build upon findings from the current project (and other recent literature), which calls for a more critical approach to be taken when researching later life physical activity. As primary investigator, I was successful in securing funding (£30k) for 8 seminars around this topic from the ESRC Seminar Series Scheme.
Collaborator Contribution Contributions were made in the from of disciplinary expertise, previous experience in applying for research funding (Brunel, Birmingham) and the sharing of contacts / established partnerships.
Impact (1/10/14 - 1/6/17). ESRC Seminar Series. (£30k) More of the Same is not Enough: New Directions in Ageing and Physical Activity. (with Wheeler, Victor, Thompson, Tulle, Piggin, Gough, Orr).
Start Year 2013
 
Description Co-Editing a Book 
Organisation Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU)
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Development of a book proposal for an edited collection of chapters focusing on critical approaches to ageing and physical activity. This venture was a direct result of the end of award 2-day event held in July, 2012.
Collaborator Contribution The partner has contributed to the development of the proposal, the identification of authors, project management.
Impact Tulle, E. & Phoenix, C. (Eds.) (2015). Sport and Physical Activity across the Life Course: Critical Perspectives. Palgrave Macmillan.
Start Year 2013
 
Description Thomas Pocklington Trust 
Organisation Thomas Pocklington Trust
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution I (along with colleagues Griffin, Smith and Howe) responded to a commissioned call to conduct research into the experiences of physical activity amongst older adults with late onset sight loss. My expertise in and international reputation for both research on ageing and physical activity, and qualitative research methods ensured that this work was undertaken rigorously and in ways that could inform practice and policy.
Collaborator Contribution Funded further research into experiences of physical activity amongst older adults with late onset sight loss.
Impact Phoenix, C. Griffin, M. & Smith, B. (in press). Physical activity among older adults with sight loss: A qualitative research study to inform policy and practice. Public Health.
Start Year 2012
 
Description Images of Research Competition (Highly Commended) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Approx. 100 people attended an Exhibition at the Edge Arts Centre, University of Bath as part of the Images of Research Competition at the University of Bath. My image was highly commended and displayed on the University website thereafter. As a consequence of this event, I was approached by the Conversation to submit an article on perceptions of ageing.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://www.flickr.com/photos/uniofbath/26718056902/in/album-72157667954297595/