Promotion of physical activity in older adults: facilitators and barriers experienced by healthcare personnel in the context of reablement

BMC Health Serv Res. 2022 Jul 27;22(1):956. doi: 10.1186/s12913-022-08247-0.


Background: Being physically active is important for maintaining function and independence in older age. However, there is insufficient knowledge about how to successfully promote physical activity (PA) among home-dwelling older adults with functional challenges in real-life healthcare settings. Reablement is an interdisciplinary, person-centered approach to restoring function and independence among older adults receiving home care services; it also may be an opportunity to promote PA. However, reablement occurs in many different contexts that influence how PA can be integrated within reablement. This study aimed to identify facilitators and barriers experienced by healthcare professionals (HCPs) that influence the promotion of PA within the context of reablement.

Methods: This exploratory qualitative study is guided by a realist perspective and analyzed through inductive content analysis. Sixteen HCPs, including occupational therapists, physical therapists, registered nurses, and home care workers, participated in semi-structured interviews. The HCPs were recruited from four Norwegian municipalities with diverse sizes and different organizational models of reablement.

Results: The HCPs experienced several facilitators and barriers at the participant, professional, organizational, and system levels that influenced how they promoted PA through reablement. Factors related to the individual person and their goals were considered key to how the HCPs promoted PA. However, there were substantial differences among reablement settings regarding the degree to which facilitators and barriers at other levels influenced how HCPs targeted individual factors. These facilitators and barriers influenced how the HCPs reached out to people who could benefit from being more physically active; targeted individual needs, desires and progression; and promoted continued PA habits after reablement.

Conclusions: These findings exemplify the complexity of facilitators and barriers that influence the promotion of PA within the reablement context. These factors are important to identify and consider to develop and organize healthcare services that facilitate older adults to be active. We recommend that future practice and research in reablement acknowledge the variations between settings and consider mechanisms on a participant and professional level and within an integrated care perspective.

Keywords: Activities of daily living; Exercise; Health services of the aged; Interdisciplinary research; Patient-centered care; Physical activity; Reablement; Sedentary behavior.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Delivery of Health Care
  • Exercise
  • Home Care Services*
  • Home Health Aides*
  • Humans
  • Physical Therapists*