How do decision makers and service providers experience par-ticipatory approaches to developing and implementing physical activity interventions with older adults? A thematic analysis

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Physical activity confers numerous health and well-being benefits on older adults, but many older adults are inactive. Interventions designed to increase physical activity in older adults have typically produced only small effects and have not achieved long-term changes. There is increasing interest in participatory approaches to promote physical activity, such as co-production, co-design and place-based approaches, but they have typically involved researchers as participants. This study aimed to understand the experiences of decision-makers and service developers with the introduction of such participatory approaches when developing new physical activity pro-grammes outside of a research setting. Methods: Semi-structured, qualitative interviews were conducted with 20 individuals who were involved in commissioning or developing the Greater Manchester Active Ageing Programme. This programme involved funding eight local authori-ties within Greater Manchester, England, to produce physical activity projects for older adults, involving participatory approaches. An inductive thematic analysis was conducted, structured using the Framework approach. Results: Interviewees identified important benefits of the par-ticipatory approaches. Increased involvement of older adults led to older adults contributing valuable ideas, becoming involved in and taking ownership of projects. Interviewees identified the need to move away from traditional emphases on increasing physical activity to improve health, towards focussing on social and fun elements. Accessibility of session location and in-formation was considered important. Challenges were also identified. In particular, it was recognised that the new approaches take significant time investment to do well, as trusting rela-tionships with older adults and partner organisations need to be developed. Ensuring sustain-ability of projects in the context of short-term funding cycles was a concern. Conclusions: Incor-porating participatory approaches were perceived to yield important benefits. Interviewees highlighted that to ensure success, sufficient time needs to be provided to develop good working relationships with older adults and partner organisations. They also emphasized that sufficient funding to ensure adequate staffing and sustainability of projects is required to allow benefits to be gained. Importantly, implementation of these approaches appears feasible across a range of local authorities.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Publication statusPublished - 2021