UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Walking with meaning McDuff, Jennifer


Today, increasing physical activity is being promoted as one of the most effective interventions for enhancing overall health and quality of life, especially for older people. Research has clearly shown that adequate exercise reduces risk for certain diseases, lowers the risk for impaired mobility and prevents cognitive decline. Despite the overwhelming amount of evidence regarding the benefits of exercising regularly, many older adults do not engage in this form of physical activity. Given our need to better understand how to promote healthy aging in this growing population, there is an emerging body of research exploring the question of why activity levels are low among older people and how they can be encouraged to become more active. However, people who have been diagnosed with dementia have not been included in this research. In this already under-active age group, it is extremely important to understand what drives or motivates the older adult with dementia to be physically active. In order to understand the drive we must first understand the significance of physical activity for this group of people. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to explore and understand the meaning of physical activity for older adults who have been diagnosed with dementia. This study was a secondary analysis of data drawn from a larger qualitative investigation on the everyday lives of people living with early dementia. Purposeful sampling was used for this secondary analysis; participants were selected because their interviews from the original study had some discussion on the subject of physical activity. The final sample was comprised of 12 participants between the ages of 65 and 86 years. The findings of this study show that older adults with dementia are attracted to physical activity and perceive numerous physical, emotional and social benefits from their involvement, even in the face of aging and dementia-related health changes. The major finding in this study on physical activity in older adults with dementia was that walking was becoming increasingly meaningful to them. The finding that walking may be an important way for people with dementia to stay involved in physical activity is discussed.

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