Importance of proximity to resources, social support, transportation and neighborhood security for mobility and social participation in older adults: results from a scoping study

BMC Public Health. 2015 May 23:15:503. doi: 10.1186/s12889-015-1824-0.


Background: Since mobility and social participation are key determinants of health and quality of life, it is important to identify factors associated with them. Although several investigations have been conducted on the neighborhood environment, mobility and social participation, there is no clear integration of the results. This study aimed to provide a comprehensive understanding regarding how the neighborhood environment is associated with mobility and social participation in older adults.

Methods: A rigorous methodological scoping study framework was used to search nine databases from different fields with fifty-one keywords. Data were exhaustively analyzed, organized and synthesized according to the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) by two research assistants following PRISMA guidelines, and results were validated with knowledge users.

Results: The majority of the 50 selected articles report results of cross-sectional studies (29; 58%), mainly conducted in the US (24; 48%) or Canada (15; 30%). Studies mostly focused on neighborhood environment associations with mobility (39; 78%), social participation (19; 38%), and occasionally both (11; 22%). Neighborhood attributes considered were mainly 'Pro ducts and technology' (43; 86) and 'Services, systems and policies' (37; 74%), but also 'Natural and human-made changes' (27; 54%) and 'Support and relationships' (21; 42%). Mobility and social participation were both positively associated with Proximity to resources and recreational facilities, Social support, Having a car or driver's license, Public transportation and Neighborhood security, and negatively associated with Poor user-friendliness of the walking environment and Neighborhood insecurity. Attributes of the neighborhood environment not covered by previous research on mobility and social participation mainly concerned 'Attitudes', and 'Services, systems and policies'.

Conclusion: Results from this comprehensive synthesis of empirical studies on associations of the neighborhood environment with mobility and social participation will ultimately support best practices, decisions and the development of innovative inclusive public health interventions including clear guidelines for the creation of age-supportive environments. To foster mobility and social participation, these interventions must consider Proximity to resources and to recreational facilities, Social support, Transportation, Neighborhood security and User-friendliness of the walking environment. Future studies should include both mobility and social participation, and investigate how they are associated with 'Attitudes', and 'Services, systems and policies' in older adults, including disadvantaged older adults.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Canada
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Databases, Factual
  • Disabled Persons
  • Environment
  • Female
  • Health Resources
  • Health Services*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Quality of Life
  • Residence Characteristics*
  • Social Participation*
  • Social Support*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Transportation / methods
  • Walking
  • Young Adult