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Walk the Talk: Characterizing Mobility in Older Adults Living on Low Income

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 April 2017

Anna M. Chudyk*
Centre for Hip Health and Mobility and Department of Medicine, University of British Columbia
Joanie Sims-Gould
Centre for Hip Health and Mobility and Department of Family Practice, University of British Columbia
Maureen C. Ashe
Centre for Hip Health and Mobility and Department of Family Practice, University of British Columbia
Meghan Winters
Faculty of Health Sciences, Simon Fraser University
Heather A. McKay
Centre for Hip Health and Mobility and Department of Family Practice, University of British Columbia
La correspondance et les demandes de tire-à-part doivent être adressées à: / Correspondence and requests for offprints should be sent to: Anna M. Chudyk, Ph.D. Centre for Hip Health and Mobility and Department of Medicine University of British Columbia 2635 Laurel Street Vancouver, BC, V5Z 1M9 <>


We provide an in-depth description of the mobility (capacity and enacted function, i.e., physical activity and travel behaviour) of community-dwelling older adults of low socioeconomic status. Participants [n = 161, mean age (range) = 74 (65-96) years] completed interviewer-administered questionnaires and objective measures of mobility. Our findings did not generally indicate that older adults of low socioeconomic status have a reduced capacity to be mobile. Participants presented with positive profiles across physical, psychosocial, and social environment domains that influence the capacity to be mobile. They also made a high proportion of trips by foot, although these did not together serve to meet physical activity guidelines for most. We challenge future researchers to focus on innovative strategies to recruit this difficult-to-access population, to consider the influence of socioeconomic status across the lifespan, and the role of behaviour-driven agency when investigating the association between the person, environment, and older adult mobility.


Nous offrons une description en profondeur de la mobilité des personnes âgées (activité physique et comportement de voyage) de faible statut socioéconomique vivant dans les communautés. Les participants (n = 161, âge moyen [intervalle] = 74 [65-96] ans) ont rempli des questionnaires administrés par les enquêteurs et ont participé à des mesures objectives de la mobilité. En général, nos résultats n’ont pas indiqué que les personnes âgées de faible statut socio-économique ont une capacité réduite d’être mobiles. Les participants, malgré un désavantage économique, ont présenté des profils positifs, physiques, psychosociaux et liés à leur environnement social, qui influencent tous la capacité d’être mobiles. Ils ont également entrepris une grande proportion des déplacements à pied, bien que ceux-ci ne l’ont pas, pris ensemble, répondu aux directives physiques pour la plupart d’entre eux. Nous incitons les futurs chercheurs à mettre l’accent sur des stratégies novatrices de recrutement de cette population, difficilement accessible, afin de prendre en compte l’influence du statut socio-économique sur la durée de vie, ainsi que le rôle des facteurs liés au comportement lors de l’étude des relations entre une personne, son environnement et la mobilité des aînés.

Copyright © Canadian Association on Gerontology 2017 

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The Walk the Talk team would like to acknowledge the important contributions of its key community partners: BC Housing, the City of Vancouver, and the BC Ministry of Health. This study would not be possible without the commitment of the older adults who participated – we are most grateful. We are also most grateful to the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR; Mobility and Aging Team Grant Competition) for their support of the Walk the Talk: Transforming the Built Environment to Enhance Mobility in Seniors Team (CIHR grant # 108607). Anna Chudyk is supported by a Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship from the CIHR. Maureen Ashe and Joanie Sims-Gould are supported by career awards from the CIHR and the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research.


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