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Older adults favorite activities are resoundingly active: findings

from the NHATS study


A Journal Article Summary and Review
(Elective II)

Submitted in Partial Fulfillment


of the Requirements for the Degree of
Bachelor of Science in Nursing

Submitted by:
Erine Emmanuelle C. Hetrosa
BSN Level IV

Submitted to:
Ms. Felma G. Garcia

Contrary to popular opinion, activity is an important factor in


successful aging. According to the Activity Theory of Aging proposed by
Robert J. Havigurst in 1961, high levels participation in activities are
important, not only for the achievement of successful aging of older adults,
but also for their total health status. (Havighurst, 2009).
Physical activity remains to be very beneficial for the geriatric
population. It has been found that people who regularly engage in physical
activities are less likely to suffer from coronary artery disease. They also
have a reduced chance of developing diabetes mellitus, hypertension, or
colon cancer. Moreover, they have increased benefits of enhanced mental
health, improved musculoskeletal health, not to mention maintained
function and independence (Lewis & Hennnekens, 2016).
In 2011, the John Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public
Health in the United States conducted a study aimed on gathering data
from a nationally representative sample of Medicare beneficiaries who are
greater than or equal to 65 years of age. The National Health and Aging
Trends Study (NHATS) is intended to be a resource for research regarding
geriatrics. Data collection was facilitated by the conduction of in-person
interviews in order to learn about the activities of daily life, economic status
and well-being, aspects of early life, and quality of life of the geriatric
population (John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, n.d.).

The study by Szanton, et al. (2015) was aimed on describing the


favorite activities of older adults, based from sample from the NHATS. Data
from the first wave of NHATS was used to analyze the favorite activity of
older adults in terms of their income, age, race, living arrangements, selfrated health, and disability status. The conditions indicated that their
chosen favorite activity was one that they should have done within the past
month.
Results show that an overwhelmingly large portion of the older adult
population would choose a physical activity as their favorite activity that
they are still capable of doing. This statistic cuts through racial classes.
However, Whites are less likely to choose a physical activity as a favorite
compared to other Americans who identify with other races such as Asians,
Native Americans, and Hispanics. However, income does not play a huge
role in the preference of activities.
Among all activities listed by the respondents, 4 out of the top 5
favorite activities consistently belong to the category of physical activity.
The top two answers are walking/jogging and gardening/outdoor
maintenance. The only non-physical activity in the top 5 of favorite
activities is reading. Surprisingly, this remains consistent until the 80-84
age bracket wherein two out five activities are non-physical in nature
reading and arts and crafts/hobbies. This trend continues until the 90
years old and above cohort wherein reading takes the top spot, with
walking/jogging as their next favorite, any physical activity is third,

followed by arts and crafts/hobbies and puzzles or games not on the


computer.
Men were more likely to select physical activities rather than the
women. However, self-rated health was associated with picking a nonphysical activity. Even so, those who rated their health as fair still listed
four physical activities out of five. People who rated themselves as having
the worst health still chose outdoor maintenance and walking as two of
their top five activities. Disability, on the other hand, increased the
possibility of choosing a non-physical activity. Living arrangements do not
factor into the selection of a physical or non-physical activity.
For an aging country like the United States, this kind of results bodes
well. Their older adults are more likely to choose physical activities that will
help them achieve successful aging. Even if their population is aging, their
capability to take care of themselves and still remain as functioning and
independent members of the society cannot hurt the country in a large
scale.
The implications of this information affect how we, as nurses, take
care of the geriatric patients. In order to ensure participation and
motivation in planning interventions and activities for our patients, we
should consider their own preferences. If this is the case, then we might
need to go beyond the usual non-physical activities in promoting health in
the elderly. We should now try to include more physical activities in our

nursing care plans. However, such an idea might be more difficult to adapt
in the Philippines.
According to the Pew Research Center (2014), the United States are
expected to have an aging population by 2050. However, the rate at which
they age are slower compare to East Asian countries. Elderly from the US
are also more confident in their quality of life compared to other countries
such as Japan, China, and South Korea. This might be one of the reasons
why the data reflects a desire for physical activity rather than otherwise.
In the Philippines, a subtle version of ageism exists. This, however, is
masked by true concern for the elderly. Culture-wise, the Filipino are very
close-knit. Independence is not practiced and as such, the elderly are
always taken care of by their younger relatives. This poses a problem now
that the geriatric population on the Philippines is growing bigger and this
promotes

dependent

population

which

will

burden

the

working

population. Moreover, the elderly experiences discrimination against their


advanced age. In the Philippines, older adults are only supposed to stay at
home, only to be supported by their families. (Salvador, 2016).
Thus, the promotion of physical activities for the elderly may be
frowned upon, not by the clients themselves, but by their relatives.
However, since the data available are gathered only in the US, we should
also take a look into the Filipino geriatric population to be specific.

Still, physical activity should be used in the health promotion for the
elderly. This has many benefits and reduces the risk of acquiring many
diseases plus diminishing the rate of cognitive decline. Promoting physical
activity will be useful in the promotion and maintenance of their total health
and well-being.

References
Havighurst, R. J. (2009). Successful Aging. In Process of Aging. New Brunswick:
Transaction Publishers.
John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. (n.d.). NHATS at a Glance.
Retrieved from National Health and Aging Trends Study:
http://www.nhats.org/scripts/aboutnhats.htm
Lewis, S., & Hennnekens, C. H. (2016, February). Regular physical activity: forgotten
benefits. The American Journal of Medicine.
Salvador, J. T. (2016). Hope Beyond the Aging Lines: Exploring the Lived
Experiences of Elderly in the Philippines. 27th International Nursing Research
Congress. Cape Town: Sigma Theta Tau International.
Szanton, S. L., Walker, R. K., Roberts, L., Thorpe, Jr., R. J., Wolff, J., Agree, E., . . .
Seplaki, C. (2015, January 23). Older adults' favorite activities are
resoundingly active: Findings from the NHATS study. Geriatric Nursing, 36,
131-135.
The Pew Research Center. (2014). Attitides about aging: a global perspective. The
Pew Research Center.