A social ecological exploration of community adult playground use among seniors in Northern Ontario
Gardam, Kevin James
Master of Public Health
SubjectOutdoor adult playgrounds
Older adults and physical acitvity initiatives
Socioeconomic and environmental influences on physical activity
MetadataShow full item record
Modifications to the built environment have recently gained momentum as an important method of supporting community wellbeing and physical activity. Outdoor adult playgrounds (OAPs) are one example of a physical activity infrastructure initiative that can improve access in opportunities to be physically active. Moreover, they have been recognized as potential features of an age-friendly community by specifically supporting older adults’ physical activity. The global growth in OAP development as a tool to support community physical activity has yet to have been supported by a strong analysis of the community, environmental, or policy factors influencing OAP uptake, particularly for older adults. In view of this noted gap in the literature, the social ecological model represents a novel methodological approach for understanding multiple influences on OAP uptake. In this research project, I employed a case-study methodology informed by the social ecological model to: 1) explore how an OAP can support older adults’ physical activity; and 2) explore the roles of community organizations and stakeholders as they relate to supporting OAP uptake by older adults. I collected data through semi-structured interviews (n=9), participant observations, and a review of relevant municipal policies and reports, and analyzed the data through a social ecological lens. While community members, and specifically the older adult population, faced noted challenges in using the OAP equipment, the OAP’s setting could help to reduce income-related inequalities in access to physical activity infrastructure. Some of the participatory challenges encountered by prospective older adult users were similar to the challenges experienced “on the ground” at the OAP, which is a key finding of this research. The identified facilitators and barriers pertaining to the OAP’s uptake in the community can be of use to prospective researchers, policymakers, and park planners, with a view toward informing future initiatives and programming.