Exploring the perspectives of experienced healthy older adults participating in a community-based tai-chi program
Koert van der Linden, Nerida
Master of Science
SubjectPhysical activity (older adults)
Tai chi (physical and psychological health benefits)
MetadataShow full item record
Only 13% of older Canadian adults, often identified as individuals between the ages of 50 and 65, participate in the recommended 150 minutes of physical activity per week. Tai chi has been promoted as a form of physical activity that can help address this issue as it is a martial art that is gentle on the body and accessible to this population. Research has demonstrated tai chi’s ability to enhance well-being among older adults who have chronic conditions and who are new to tai chi; however, no studies have investigated the perspectives of older adults who are healthy and experienced in practice. This is important because tai chi requires a sequence of movements that may be dependent on long-term participation, and the positive effects of practicing may increase with more experience. In an effort to provide information on potential strategies for promoting adherence to physical activity in older adults, the purpose of this study was to use qualitative inquiry to broadly explore the perspectives of experienced, healthy older adult tai chi practitioners' participating in a community-based program. Eleven participants (M age= 64.9 years; male n= 8) who self-identified as healthy and had been practicing tai chi for at least 1 year were recruited from a tai chi program in Thunder Bay, Ontario. One-on-one interviews were conducted and inductive content analysis was used to analyze the data. Five overarching themes were identified, along with associated subthemes: reasons for joining tai chi (e.g., becoming more physically active); principles related to tai chi and aging (e.g., being kind to an aging body); challenges to practice (e.g., personal barriers); facilitators for practice (e.g., physical and psychological health benefits), and group dynamics (e.g., group format). The findings of this research suggest that among healthy older adults, tai chi is a form of physical activity that is gentle and holistic, and the facilitators associated with practice outweigh the challenges, thus promoting long-term adherence. Future community-based programs should attempt to adopt similar program characteristics (e.g., group format, supportive instructors, facilitating expanding social network) to promote adherence to physical activity in older adults.