Walkability for Older Adults
By: Teneasha Washington
Physical activity among older adults is essential to living a healthy life. Unfortunately, cities and states differ on their approaches to enhancing walkability efforts. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (2018), “Walkability is the idea of quantifying the safety and desirability of the walking routes.” Walking routes can be characterized as sidewalks, streets, nature trails, and any areas an individual can use for walking. There have been multiple efforts to promote walkable cities such as the creation of a walkability audit. These audits are designed to assess pedestrian facilities, destinations, and areas along walking routes in order to suggest improvements to the area.
As you think about walkability, keep the following in mind:
- There are more than 21 million US adults ages 18-64 who have a disability (CDC, 2018).
- Individuals with disabilities are three times as likely to have heart disease, stroke, diabetes, or cancer, compared to individuals who do not have a disability (CDC, 2018).
- Almost half of all adults with disabilities do not participate in any form of aerobic physical activity (CDC, 2018).
If you find your community has limited walkability, consider the following:
- Organize local organizations in the area to conduct their own walk audits.
- Try using the AXS Map app. It provides information on the accessibility of a variety of locations: https://www.axsmap.com/
- Consider joining a local YMCA, and identify a location that will meet your needs: http://www.ymca.net/
If you have a disability and walking proves to be very difficult, consider adapted exercises for your workouts. Some examples of adapted exercises include the following:
- Water aerobics
- Chair aerobics
- Chair yoga
As you think through exercises and activities that are meaningful to you, remember to stick to the national guidelines for your age group. Also, be mindful that it is ok to start off slow. Building up endurance is a process that involves consistency. It may be beneficial to create your own goals for becoming more physically active. Be sure to consult your physician as well to address any concerns you may have. The following information is related to the national physical activity guidelines for adults and older adults:
- Adults should participate in some form of moderately-intensive physical activity for at least 150 minutes a week (USDHH, 2008).
- Alternatively, adults can also participate in vigorous-intensive aerobic physical activity for 75 minutes a week (USDHH, 2008).
- Lastly, adults can participate in a combination of the two (USDHH, 2008).
Additionally, there are more specific requirements for older adults:
- If an older adult is not able to accomplish 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, he or she should participate in a physical activity that is appropriate for their abilities and conditions (USDHH, 2008).
- Older adults who are at risk of falling should engage in exercises that improve balance (USDHH, 2008).
- Older adults should consult their physicians to identify what physical activity is appropriate for their ability level (USDHH, 2008).