ENVIRONMENTAL ECOLOGY AND HEALTH OF ELDERLY PEOPLE
Laimutė Samsonienė , Diana Karanauskienė , Vilma Stankutė – Vilnius University, Vilnius1 ; Lithuanian Sports University,
Background: The aging of the population, emigration, low birth rates and a changing family model result in the fact that families in Lithuania are less able to properly take care of the well-being of the elderly. Research focuses on physical and emotional health of the elderly. The aim and object of the study was the effect of the adapted physical activity program on the emotional and physical health of elderly people living in different ecological environments. Research participants were 32 elderly persons (aged 68 ± 8 years) living in an inclusive (family) and structured (care institution) environments.
Methods: We chose sequential mixed methods research design. Emotional health was assessed applying the structured interview method. Physical health was assessed as follows: physical activity was evaluated by a questionnaire survey method, and physical characteristics – using Up and Go, Pathway search and Stork tests.
Results: Regardless of the living environment, respondents do not develop their physical skills characteristic of their biological age such as strength and/or flexibility, and physical activity is aerobic in nature. Most (80 %) of the subjects living in families are little active, regularly engaged in low intensity physical activity (slow walking, easy housework or vacuum-cleaning, etc.). In a structured environment, 34 % of research participants never exercise; 46 % are rated as inadequately active; 20 % are active and perform some physical activity several times a week. Regardless of the living environment, the same program of physical activity applied for 5 months significantly (p < .05) improved respondentsʼ coordination and ability to focus, improved their emotional health, increased motivation for exercise, e.g. “I like to do sports”, “I like to exercise”, “I want to lose weight”.
Conclusion. Adapted physical activity program applied for five months had a positive impact on physical and emotional health of respondents regardless of their living environment. Motivation of the elderly to exercise depends on the ecology of the living environment: in the structured environment research participants linked their expectations with health, and in the inclusive environment – with meaningful and enjoyable leisure time.