Learning in the Fourth Age: the role of physical activity interventions for people living in long term facilities

Borgstrom, Erica; Deepak Gopinath, Manik and Vseteckova, Jitka (2019). Learning in the Fourth Age: the role of physical activity interventions for people living in long term facilities. International Journal of Education and Ageing (In Press).

Abstract

Though targeted physical exercise interventions are seen as important for promoting health and wellbeing of older care home residents, adherence to targeted exercise remains variable. Drawing upon a framework of learning theories, this article investigates the potential role, if any, of individual and group learning processes in shaping adherence to physical activity amongst older care home residents. In so doing, this article throws light on an under developed area of research , i.e., on links between learning, ageing and health amongst those who are often characterised as being in the ‘Fourth Age’.

In order to explore the potential role of learning in shaping adherence, a systematic review of qualitative research was undertaken to synthesise experiences of physical activity participation amongst older care home residents. A conceptual framework comprising of seven thematic learning categories was applied to eight studies included in the review.

From the review there is some evidence to suggest that physical activity interventions, in supporting care home residents to become ‘physically literate’ can be viewed as opportunities for learning with implications for individual motivation and adherence. The need for safe, secure and supportive learning environments and, especially, role of the instructor in shaping such learning environments emerges as being key to enabling adherence.

The review strongly suggests that care home residents can learn and therefore need to be viewed as active learners rather than as passive recipients of physical activity interventions. This finding not only extends the view of learning as an on-going process but also tentatively confirms the existence of links between learning, ageing and health for those characterised as being in the ‘Fourth Age’. Further research oriented to understanding barriers and facilitators to learning that gives voice to care home learners’ own experiences might usefully contribute to the design of physical activity interventions.

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