Loneliness and social isolation among older adults in a community exercise program: a qualitative study

Aging Ment Health. 2019 Jun;23(6):736-742. doi: 10.1080/13607863.2018.1450835. Epub 2018 Mar 15.


Objectives: Loneliness and social isolation (L&SI) are associated with physical and cognitive decline in older adults. Walk 'n' Talk for your Life (WTL) is a community-based program of socialization, health education, falls prevention exercise and walking for community-dwelling older adults. This qualitative study was done to gain further insight into the experience and impacts of the WTL on seniors' L&SI.

Methods: One-on-one semi-structured interviews were conducted with sixteen participants who had completed the WTL . Interview questions focused on eliciting a better understanding of how the WTL impacted participants' feelings of L&SI. Content analysis was used to classify the qualitative data .

Results: This qualitative evaluation helped to obtain a richer understanding of WTL participants' reasons for loneliness and the benefits of the program on participants' experience of L&SI. Participants felt WTL helped motivate them to socialize and reduced their feelings of loneliness by providing a sense of 'belonging' which appeared to be mediated by the group exercise/walking component of the program.

Discussion/conclusions: This study provides insight into participants' experiences of L&SI. Further research in a broader population of older adults is mandated to determine the efficacy of community exercise programs in reducing L&SI.

Keywords: Loneliness; community exercise program; qualitative methods; social isolation.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Community Mental Health Services
  • Exercise
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Loneliness* / psychology
  • Male
  • Motivation
  • Qualitative Research
  • Quality of Life
  • Social Behavior
  • Social Isolation* / psychology
  • Walking / psychology*