Intersection between the Built and Social Environments and Older Adults’ Mobility
Inevitably, an aging population will demand significant health and economic costs at personal and societal levels. Emerging evidence highlights that built and social environments both play a role in older adults’ mobility, community engagement and health. It may be the interaction between the person, the built environment, and elements of the social environment that encourage or dissuade an older adult to be physically active out of doors and in his or her community. However, few studies specifically address the complexity of community participation at the person, neighbourhood, and societal levels. The available evidence suggests that supportive built and social environments are associated with older adults’ walking, but the causal mechanisms are less clear. While it appears that poor social and built environments limit community mobility, the extent to which supportive physical surrounds enable community engagement for individuals with existing limitations is unknown. Research that seeks to better understand how person-level characteristics interact with street-level and social environment factors would make a valuable contribution to this field. In particular, a better understanding of factors that encourage older adults to remain active in their community could have a substantial impact on individuals, communities, and the health-care system alike.