Wellness study points the way for ageing population

By Rob O'Brien

They may be places to avoid on wet weekends and a chore to navigate around at the best of times, but an academic study has found that shopping centres play a vital role in elderly people feeling connected to their communities.

The findings were part of a detailed study of older people's perception of wellness by Queensland University of Technology (QUT) PhD nursing researcher Jenneke Foottit.

Foottit used multi-dimensional surveys to study 263 Queenslanders aged 65 years and over, how well they perceived themselves to be and their health-related quality of life.

After finding a sharp dip in perception of wellness and in health-related quality of life in women aged 85 to 90, focus groups were conducted with 24 women and four men aged 85-90 to determine possible reasons for the dip.

“I found that older people perceive themselves as being well when they can do the things they want to do despite having health issues,” said Foottit, from QUT's Dementia Research and Training Centre.

Foottit said the study could be used as a way of better understanding the country’s aging population and how to best address the services they need. 

The study also demonstrated that social connectedness could be a critical factor in wellness in older people because it contributes to positive social and emotional health.

“Older women use shopping centres as a way of connecting with society. They go there for social activity, to see people, they use it for safe exercise and, sometimes, they mention doing the shopping,” Foottit said.

“This has implications for the building and refurbishment of shopping centres. As our population ages, we must make sure they stay mobile by creating social environments that are safe for them to move around in.

“We need to remember shopping centres are meeting places for older people and provide appropriate health services, spaces where they can gather socially and make sure they can accommodate walkers and have access to public transport.”

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