Exploring the Objective and Perceived Environmental Attributes of Older Adults' Neighborhood Walking Routes: A Mixed Methods Analysis

J Aging Phys Act. 2017 Jul;25(3):420-431. doi: 10.1123/japa.2016-0165. Epub 2016 Dec 19.


Walking is a central form of physical activity among older adults that is associated with the physical environment at various scales. This mixed-methods study employs a concurrent nested design to explore objective and perceived environmental characteristics of older adults' local walking routes. This was achieved by integrating quantitative Geographic Information System (GIS) data with qualitative data obtained using the Stanford Discovery Tool (DT). Fifty-nine community-dwelling middle-aged and older adults (14 men and 45 women aged 50+) were recruited in a snowball approach through community centers in the city of Haifa (Israel). Four neighborhood environment themes were identified: pedestrian infrastructure, access to destinations, aesthetics, and environmental quality. Both geometrical traits (i.e., distance, slope) and urban features (i.e., land-uses, greenery) of the route may impact the experience of walking. The findings thus highlight the importance of micro-scale environmental elements in shaping environmental perceptions, which may consequently influence the choice of being active.

Keywords: GIS; content analysis; neighborhood; walking.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Architectural Accessibility / methods
  • Architectural Accessibility / standards
  • Environment Design / standards
  • Exercise* / physiology
  • Exercise* / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Independent Living / psychology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Residence Characteristics
  • Social Perception
  • Statistics as Topic
  • Walking* / physiology
  • Walking* / psychology