Lower-Body Function, Neighborhoods, and Walking in an Older Population

Lower-body function, the neighborhood environment, and perception of neighborhood safety were factors that determined walking patterns in a sample of older adults.

This study investigated neighborhood characteristics and walking patterns for a sample of adults at least 65 years old. The authors hypothesized that the neighborhood environment would be more influential, in terms of walking, when older people had limited use of their lower bodies.

The authors analyzed data from the Healthy Aging Research Network (HAN) Walking Study, a cross-sectional study of functional capacity, the neighborhood environment, and walking; the HAN study collected data from senior centers in four U.S. cities; a baseline interview included questions taken from the Neighborhood Enivronment Walkability Scale (NEWS).

Participants reported the frequency and duration of walking per week; the authors created categories of “less walking,” (less than 150 minutes per week) and “more walking” (more than 150 minutes); consistent with previous studies, the authors employed a 400-meter buffer zone around the residential address of each participant; data sources for the geographic environment included the RAND Center for Population Health and Health Disparities and the 2000 U.S. Census.

Key Findings:

  • Participants with poor lower-body function were twice as likely to walk less.
  • Older people living in residential areas walked less than those in commercial or mixed-use neighborhoods.
  • Older adults with poor-lower body function walked less if they perceived their neighborhood as unsafe or somewhat unsafe.

This study investigated whether limited lower-body function in older adults had an effect on associations between the neighborhood environment and walking. The authors estimated the odds that an individual would walk less based on lower-body function and measures of the neighborhood environment.