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The Physical Environment as a Determinant of the Health Status of Older Populations

  • Kathy M. Shipp (a1) and Laurence G. Branch (a2)

Abstract

Although the physical environment as a co-determinant of health could be approached in many ways, we chose to focus on an understudied area: how the immediate living environment can act as a persuasive force affecting physical activity level in older people, with physical activity in turn affecting health status. To explore this topic, the methods and findings of a literature search are described, the theoretical underpinnings of our thesis are presented, and an example is given of how a planned environment, which upon first glance seems supportive, may have unexpected and negative consequences on the activity level, and ultimately the health status, of the residents. Theory related to changes with aging in homeostatic capacity and reserve capacity of organ systems as well as Lawton's environmental press-competence model are applied to environmental characteristics (e.g., staircases) of continuing care retirement communities. We argue that physically challenging aspects of the environment, such as stairs, should be included in the design of living spaces for the elderly with the goal of encouraging greater daily physical activity and improved health status.

Il y a diverses façons d'aborder le sujet de l'environnement physique vu comme co-déterminant de l'état de santé. Nous avons choisi de nous attarder à un domaine peu étudié, soit l'impact de l'aménagement de l'espace domicilaire sur le niveau d'activité physique des personnes âgées, et conséquemment sur l'état de santé des individus. À cette fin, nous décrivrons la méthode et les résultats de notre revue de littérature et les hypothèses qui sous-tendent notre étude. Nous citons l'exemple d' un environnement de toute apparence bien aménagé, et semble-t-il acceuillant, qui malgré tout exerce subtilemment un impact négatif sur le niveau d'activité physique, et éventuellement sur l'état de santé des résidents. La théorie du changement de la capacité homéostatitique et des forces de réserve du corps avec l'avancement en âge, ainsi que le modèle de Lawton environmental press-competence, ont été appliqués aux caractéristiquers environnementales (tels les escaliers) des résidences destinées aux personnes âgées. Il en ressort que l'aménagement de l'espace devrait offrir un certain nombre de défis physiques (tels les escaliers) afin de stimuler davantage d'activités physiques dans la vie quotidienne des résidents, et par conséquent, améliorer leur état de santé.

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The Physical Environment as a Determinant of the Health Status of Older Populations

  • Kathy M. Shipp (a1) and Laurence G. Branch (a2)

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