Social Support for Physical Activity Among Older Adults: An Examination of Two Populations at Increased Risk of Social Isolation

Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Older adults are vulnerable to isolation, and certain groups of older adults are more vulnerable than others, including those who live alone and LGBTQI2S+ older adults. Physical activity with other people can serve as an important opportunity for experiencing social connectedness, social support, and social inclusion. Therefore, it is important to understand how these social experiences are fostered within the context of exercising with other people. This thesis aimed to gain a deeper understanding into how two older adult populations who are vulnerable to social isolation experience social support in physical activity contexts. Qualitative studies can provide valuable insight into the experiences of individuals and how their interactions with their world shape these experiences. These studies used single time-point semi-structured interviews for data-collection which were audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim, and thematically analyzed. Physical activity with other people allowed participants to have a place to belong and feel included, as well as provided them with a meaningful place to engage socially. Experiences with social support varied among participants with some being supported by the presence of others and others by more direct interactions (e.g., asking if they went to class, physical contact). Participants also experienced social barriers related to physical activity including experiencing insecurity related to physical ability or being single when around other people and being active. Group physical activity contexts can be designed to foster social inclusion and provide meaningful social relationships and interactions for those at risk of social isolation and exclusion. Understanding how to support older adults to be physically active could inform initiatives and interventions aimed at promoting physical activity and social and mental well-being.
Beselt, L. J. (2020). Social support for physical activity among older adults: an examination of two populations at increased risk of social isolation (Master's thesis, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada). Retrieved from