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Experiences of physical activity among older adults with multiple chronic conditions McFarlin, Karin


This study investigated the barriers to and facilitators of participation in physical activity and/or exercise among older adults with multiple chronic conditions (MCC). According to the Health Council of Canada (2007), more than half of all Canadians 65 years and older have two or more chronic conditions, while 27% of older men and 33% of older women have three or more chronic conditions (Moore et al., 1999). To date, there has been little investigation of the impact of having MCC on exercise and activity patterns since most studies have tended to focus on the relationship between a single chronic condition and participation in physical activity. Using symbolic interactionism as the theoretical framework, the present study investigated the factors that encouraged and discouraged older men and women who have MCC from being physically active. Semi-structured in-depth interviews were conducted with 10 older women and 10 older men 65 years of age and older. Participants had between seven and 17 multiple chronic conditions (average of 12) and were diverse with respect to age, country of birth, educational attainment, household income, and marital status. While the participants identified the physical symptoms accompanying their MCC as the strongest barrier to participation, other barriers included fear, lack of social support, and transportation issues, particularly for the women. The men reported more motivators to being physically active than the women, and these factors included improving their health and preventing further health deterioration. The women reported that having a companion or health care professional participate or supervise their participation was their strongest motivator. The pattern of participation was dynamic across the participants' lifetimes. The theoretical implications of my findings reveal that the meanings older adults with MCC attribute to their experiences of participating in physical activity are diverse and underpinned by cultural norms of healthism and successful aging. From a more practical perspective, my findings suggest that educating and sharing knowledge of the benefits of participating in physical activity and/or exercise in personally modified ways according to individual's MCC would contribute to motivating and providing hope for health improvement among older adults with MCC.

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