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Research news: Environmental facilitators decrease the risk for walking difficulty among older people

A pleasant environment with parks, green areas and walking routes can promote mobility among older community-dwelling individuals found a study conducted at GEREC.

“Older people who have outdoor recreational facilities, such as walking routes located near their homes, are more physically active and thus more likely to maintain good walking ability,” says PhD student Johanna Eronen from the Gerontology Research Center at the University of Jyväskylä, Finland.

In total 261 community-dwelling people aged from 75 to 81 were monitored in a prospective study with a follow-up time of three and a half years. At baseline, all participants had no difficulties to walk 500 metres, but nearly half of them developed walking difficulties during the follow-up. Environmental facilitators seemed to protect from walking difficulties: the participants who reported more environmental facilitators had a lower risk for walking difficulty.

“The results of the study indicate that the mobility of older community-dwelling people may be promoted with a green environment and outdoor recreational facilities that are easy to access and located within a walking distance from home,” says Eronen.

For more information, please contact Johanna Eronen,,

Gerontology Research Center (GEREC) is a joint effort between the University of Jyväskylä and the University of Tampere.

The study was published online on 5 June 2013 in European Journal of Ageing.

Eronen J, von Bonsdorff M, Rantakokko M, Rantanen T. Environmental facilitators for outdoor walking and development of walking difficulty in community-dwelling older adults. European Journal of Aging 2013. DOI 10.1007/s10433-013-0283-7

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