UBC Theses and Dissertations
The physical activity and mobility of foreign-born older adults : a multilingual focused ethnography Tong, Catherine Elisabeth
Introduction: Physical activity (PA), the movement of one’s body, and mobility, moving one’s body through space using a variety of modes, allow older adults to participate in their communities, cultivate social connections, maintain their health, and access services. Segments of the population, however, have been overlooked. While a growing body of research has focused on older adults, we know surprisingly little about the PA and mobility of foreign-born older adults (FBOAs). Objective: This dissertation uses a focused ethnographic approach to characterize the PA and mobility of 49 visible minority FBOAs in South Vancouver, Canada. Methods: The research was conducted in Hindi, Punjabi, Cantonese, Mandarin, and English. Forty-nine participants completed surveys about their PA habits; of these 49, 46 wore accelerometers and 18 completed in-depth interviews. I also developed a novel interview tool “interactive interpreted interviews”, neighbourhood walking interviews that included professional interpreters, which 13 participants completed. Results: Participants’ mean daily step count was 7,876 (women: 8,172; men: 7,164; Chinese: 8,291; South Asian: 7,196). The bulk of their time is spent in light and sedentary activities. Physical activity is principally acquired through walking for errands and work performed in/around the home. Participants walk for physical and mental wellbeing, and have access to a supportive social environment, which includes culturally familiar and linguistically accessible shops and services. Conclusions: This study challenges the assumption that FBOAs are less active than their non-immigrant peers and confirms the role of “nonexercise” and low activity, rather than moderate to vigorous activity, in older adults’ PA acquisition. Building on the Webber (2010) model of mobility in older adults, this study also highlights how gender and personal biography, including work history and family context, impact participants’ PA and mobility behaviours.
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