National physical activity recommendations for older Australians: Discussion Document

Appendix 8 - Strategic priority areas from the Blueprint document

The National Ageing Research Institute was commissioned by The Department of Health and Ageing to review the evidence and develop physical activity recommendations for older people.

Page last updated: 01 February 2011

Intersectoral strategies

    • Specify what interventions are most beneficial for segments of the 50 plus populations
    • (active older adults, frail elderly, homebound, disabled, etc.).
    • Create a national clearinghouse to disseminate effective, tested public education, social marketing materials, and public policy information on physical activity and aging.
    • Evaluate current programs and devise systems to share and replicate effective programs.
    • Seek opportunities for nonprofit associations and agencies to work collaboratively with the for-profit sector to develop joint public education programs. Involve groups including public health, health care organizations, community groups, faith institutions, schools, hospitals, and health clubs.
    • Establish and disseminate standards for fitness leaders who work with mid-life and older populations.
    • Conduct quantitative and qualitative research on effective social marketing strategies in communicating information about physical activity and older adults.
    • Provide more information on how to segment and communicate effectively to the age 50 and older audiences.
    • Develop and test a mass-market communications campaign to increase awareness about the importance of physical activity in the health of age 50 and older Americans.
    • Include messages related to what needs to happen to make opportunities for physical activity more accessible.
    • Conduct market research to better understand how to leverage the social aspects and benefits of physical activity as a way to communicate and encourage people to be more active.
    • Conduct market research on specific communications initiatives.
    • Personalize messages to target audiences, using market research and audience appropriate communication delivery systems.
    • Identify and use “ambassadors” and celebrities to communicate to the 50 plus audiences.
    • Test the effectiveness and impact of emerging communications technologies including use of the Internet

Research strategies

    • Conduct studies to characterize seniors who are currently active. These studies will include constructing a profile of this group (or groups) — who they are, what they do, what got them started, what sustains them, how they have overcome barriers. This profile could be useful in informing the work for individual and community based interventions, as well as broad public health interventions.
    • Design and implement a comprehensive longitudinal study of activity-friendly communities to track their impact on reducing disease and disability, as well as improvements in people’s quality of life.
    • Conduct behavioral research to understand better what motivates individuals to participate in community, home-based, and work site programs or self-directed activities.
    • Explore how to establish, maintain, and reinforce regular physical activity behaviors across multi-levels of intervention, e.g. personal, interpersonal, organizational, and environmental.
    • Identify barriers to walking for adults age 50 and older, determine why these barriers exist, and develop specific recommendations for how to overcome and avoid them.
    • • Identify appropriate valid and reliable measures of physical activity and other health outcomes that can be used in future physical activity research targeting mid-life and older adults, which will increase the internal validity of studies and confidence in efforts to determine the effectiveness of home-based, community-based, and work site-based programs. These efforts will also increase the ability to compare findings from different studies and to better develop and disseminate best-practice guidelines and recommendations for creating effective programs.
    • Conduct research and disseminate findings to inform health program developers, social marketers and health care professionals to understand what interventions or factors influence the physical activity of age 50 and older adults. These factors or determinants might include significant life events such as the death of a spouse or a move to a retirement community, etc.
    • Conduct research to understand better the elements of effective work site programs that focus on mid-life and older workers. Disseminate findings and best-practice guidelines.
    • Evaluate the cost benefit of increased physical activity within assisted living facilities.
    • Conduct research related to HCFA/Medicare guidelines for physical activity and the older population.
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Home and community strategies

    • Highlight examples of activity-friendly communities and home/community-based programs, including a system to share best practices. Identify what programs exist, what works, and what evaluation mechanisms are in place.
    • Develop and test appropriate programs for living arrangements, such as assisted living communities or naturally occurring retirement communities.
    • Educate people about physical activity and have physical activity professionals such as trainers and fitness instructors work with older people to teach and reinforce skills.
    • Encourage more health, physical education, recreation, and dance professionals to become certified/trained in working with older adults.
    • Identify professionals in the community who can serve as resources for information and assistance. Work as much as possible with existing community groups such as the YM/YWCA, community centers, senior centers, health and sports clubs, schools, places of worship, and hospital wellness programs, etc.
    • Provide funding and implement physical activity programs for older adults through existing appropriate community facilities such as YM/YWCA, community centers, senior centers, places of worship, etc.
    • Identify and assess existing group physical activity programs that can be translated into self-directed programs. Share information related to best practices.
    • Provide community organizations with a template for good physical activity programs: Outline the elements of a good program including facilitator qualifications, monitoring, evaluation, and sustainability issues. Identify “best practice” physical activity programs for adults age 50 and older that can be replicated and generalized.
    • • Design and implement a health-impact assessment that is similar to an environmental impact assessment for communities.
    • • Establish partnerships among health, aging, urban/community planning, transportation, environmental groups, recreation, social service, and the private sector. Encourage these groups to work together to define, create, promote, and sustain communities that support lifelong physical activity.

Workplace strategies

    • Seek employee input in the planning and development of programs targeted to the age 50 and older worker.
    • Create a workplace environment where time for physical activity is incorporated into daily activities.
    • Design a system that provides employers with tax incentives based on physical activity programs/opportunities they afford their employees.
    • Provide financial incentives to employers that incorporate physical activity enhancements in their corporate setting land-use plans.
    • Provide health insurance cost reductions to employers that offer physical activity programs to employees.
    • Develop, implement, and evaluate model work site physical activity programs, targeted to employees age 50 and older.
    • Provide tools and templates to enable employers to communicate information about the importance of physical activity.
    • Identify and disseminate information about successful work site physical activity programs designed for employees age 50 and older.
    • Communicate to business leaders the benefits of physical activity for older workers, especially as they pertain to desired outcomes of management (e.g. cost-savings, employee absenteeism)
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Medical systems strategies

    • Assist health care systems in establishing methods to gather information on current practices related to physical activity assessment, counseling, and follow-up with mid-life and older patients.
    • Incorporate “best practices” on physical activity into education programs for all health care professionals.
    • Develop an evidence-based approach and practice guidelines to deliver physical activity programs and information through health care settings. Provide professionals with education on how to implement such initiatives. Implementation might include the approach of Ask, Advise, Assess, Assist and Adjust.
    • Increase health care professional training on physical activity in older populations. Such training should be available through medical and health care professional schools and through continuing education programs for physicians, sports medicine professionals, occupational and physical therapists, nurses, and health educators.
    • Encourage medical students and medical professionals (physicians, nurses and other allied health professionals) to be more physically active in order to serve as role models for patients.
    • Enlist experts working in health care systems to help identify effective components of physical activity programs for people age 50 and older.
    • Identify community resources, (i.e. YM/YWCAs, certified trainers, fitness clubs, etc.) which are quality sources for information related to physical activity and the age 50 and older adult and provide this information to consumers via medical settings.
    • Increase coordination and develop partnerships between medical professionals and the community to facilitate referrals and information sharing. Provide health and medical professionals with information and resources about physical activity opportunities for the older population so that they can make referrals and recommendations as appropriate.
    • Assist patients in identifying physical activity options that match their interests, lifestyles, and functional abilities; and identify opportunities for them to pursue these.
    • Establish and share with health care professionals minimum standards for physical activity among older adults in terms of endurance, strength, flexibility, and balance.
    • Develop standards to accommodate physical activity programs in nursing care/ assisted care facilities that focus on reacquisition of mobility after illness or injury as well as maintenance of regular physical activity.
    • Develop materials, guidelines, and toolkits to enable health care providers to more effectively communicate with patients the benefits of physical activity.
    • Disseminate information about physical activity in the age 50 and older persons to health professionals via professional journals, professional societies, meetings, and related media.
    • Establish and evaluate health and wellness programs in health care settings that rely on trained allied health professionals rather than physicians to provide patients with physical activity assessments and counseling.
    • Demonstrate the cost effectiveness of these strategies to managed care organizations and health insurance companies
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Policy/advocacy strategies

    • Develop committed coalitions/partnerships to build leadership and capacity, leverage resources, and provide an ongoing forum for organizations to share information and ideas that can be implemented in a variety of settings.
    • Engage constituents in advocacy activities.
    • Organize older adults to become more directly involved in making their neighborhoods and communities more walkable.
    • Involve health care professionals, clergy, and business leaders in advocating for activity-friendly communities.
    • Involve professional organizations/associations in advocating for activity-friendly communities.
    • Channel tools and funds to communities so that they can implement actions designed to increase physical activity among mid-life and older adults.
    • Provide incentives to states and communities that achieve measurable increases in the physical activity levels of the 50 and older population.
    • Provide funding to low-income populations and publicly funded community organizations and programs to make physical activity opportunities more readily available and accessible for age 50 and older adults.
    • Identify barriers to increasing local and state funding to create activity-friendly communities and to assure easy access to physical activity programs for all persons age 50 and older.
    • Provide community organizations with help in developing long-term, sustainable funding for physical activity programs, training, and resources for the age 50 and older population.
    • Educate policymakers about the importance of physical activity for the age 50 and older population, emphasizing the social, economic, and health benefits. Include information that provides examples of effective policy in this arena.
    • Conduct a policy analysis of health plans that offer benefits related to physical activity for mid-life and older adults.
    • Develop, implement, evaluate, and disseminate a model policy for quality of care related to physical activity for older adults.
    • Design and test a program to provide people with reductions in health insurance costs based on physical activity levels.
    • Advocate for funding for program and policy analysis research on physical activity and the age 50 and older population. Advocate for increases in funding to disseminate research findings and translate practice guidelines into practice.
    • Support the development of safe activity-friendly communities.
    • Provide information on the cost effectiveness of increasing regular physical activity among the age 50 and older population to help support public policy, program, and reimbursement efforts.
    • Develop a national scorecard to outline what makes a community activity-friendly for older adults and publicize rankings.
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