Nearby Outdoor Environmental Support of Older Adults' Yard Activities, Neighborhood Walking and Independent Living in the Community
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Aging is a global phenomenon. Ways to sustain older adults' aging-in-place in the 'community at-large' (defined as traditional communities where most people live) have been overlooked. Consciously engaging in physical activity helps older adults to remain healthy and gives them the ability to access daily-life services, and thus extend their independent years at home. Nearby outdoor environments on residential sites and in the neighborhoods may influence older adults' independent living through physical activity. This study surveyed 206 older adults in 11 assisted-living facilities in Texas regarding their past physical activities when they lived in their own homes and perceptions of the residential site and neighborhood environments. Older adults are shown to have long-term recall ability and capable of reliably estimating their physical activities that occurred up to ten years ago. Geographic Information System (GIS) was used to verify the survey responses and further examine the objective measurements of environments on a subset of 117 participants' residences. Bivariate tests, factor analysis, and multivariate logistic regression modeling were conducted to identify environmental variables correlated to yard activities, neighborhood walking, and years of independent living at home. After controlling for personal and social factors in multivariate logistic modeling, three site features (transitional-areas, connecting-paths, and levels of pleasant indoor sunshine) have been found to influence yard activities; two site features (yard landscaping and corner lot location) and three neighborhood features (walking destinations, safety from crime, and sidewalks) have been found to influence neighborhood walking; one site features (transitional-areas) has been found to influence older adults' years of independent living in the community. Based on the results, guidelines were developed for designing friendly environments for older adults' active and independent living. Nearby outdoor environments on residential sites and in the neighborhoods appear to be important for older adults. The roles of residential site environments in shaping older adults' behavior and independence need more attention. To better understand environmental influences on older adults and promote aging-in-place, more empirical studies and longitudinal research are needed.