Older adults are the largest population group worldwide, and incur the greatest health care costs. The number of the ‘oldest old’ (˂80 years old) is likely to increase threefold by 2050, to 392 million worldwide. In addition, many countries are facing rapid and sustained increases in the proportion of the
population aged 65 years or older. Therefore, it is vital that an effort is made to increase the evidence base for building communities that support older adults’ health, functioning, independence and physical activity. As it is believed this has the potential to have the greatest impact on society as a whole.
A key concern among older adults is an ability to ‘age in place’ (Cheek et al 2007); an aspiration to remain in their own home and function independently and as such to maintain their social networks, contribute to local economies and not rely on health and social services. A key determinant and feature of being able to age in place is an enduring capacity of an individual to engage in physical activity, which both supports and maintains independent living, with the built environment influencing this (Burton et al. 2011). Indeed, an adequate level of physical activity is a key factor in preventing population wide non-communicable diseases and is associated with a wide range of health benefits and a 47% reduction in mortality (Gebel et al. 2015).
The HULAP study aims to enhance the conceptual and empirical understanding of the influence of built environment on physical activity of older adults and to develop evidence and policy tools for increasing physical activity and well-being of older adults through built environment interventions, enhanced policy effectiveness and improved institutional collaboration.
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