A report from a survey of older adults about walking in three distinct types of communities in New Jersey
With the growth of older adults due to the aging of the baby boomers and the aging of population in suburban and exurban areas where mobility depends almost exclusively on the automobile, there is a growing concern among transportation planners about the transportation needs and barriers of older adults. The growth of older adults in New Jersey is also substantial, as evident from the fact the share of the population aged 55 or over increased from 22 percent to 28 during the 2000–2016 period. There is also a growing concern among health professionals and researchers that older adults do not walk or participate in physical activities enough despite widespread knowledge that physical activities have a positive effect on health and well-being. With that background, this study sought to fulfill the following objectives in the context of New Jersey:
- Comprehend the walking patterns, needs, and barriers of older adults living in different types of neighborhoods;
- Comprehend their perception of walking needs, barriers, and health benefits from walking;
- Assess the health and well-being of older adults living in different environments;
- Assess the relationship between leisure/exercise and transportation walking and health and well-being of older adults.
- Present recommendations for removing barriers and enhancing walking among older adults with the objective of improving their health and overall well-being.
The study involved three distinct tasks: (a) a review of pertinent literature, (d) focus groups involving older adults, and (c) a randomized mail survey of older adults. Because of a high concentration of older adults and the existence of many gated and non-gated age-restricted communities in those municipalities, Monroe Township in Middlesex County and Berkeley Township in Ocean County were chosen as the study area. The subject populations for this study are adults age 50 or over living in (a) age-restricted gated communities of Monroe Township, (b) age-restricted non-gated communities of Berkeley Township, and (c) adults aged 50 or over living in non-age-restricted regular neighborhoods of Monroe and Berkeley Townships. The study distinguishes between these three types of communities because each provides a distinct set of environmental characteristics for walking and physical activities, including both indoor and outdoor walking infrastructure and facilities.