National Poll on Healthy Aging Highlights Decrease in Physical Activity Among Older Adults During Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic may have increased older adults’ risk of falling and injuring themselves, due to changes in physical activity, conditioning and mobility, a new national poll suggests.
More than a third of people between the ages of 50 and 80 report their physical activity declined in the pandemic’s first 10 months, and more than a quarter say they’re in worse physical condition now than before the pandemic, according to the new findings from the National Poll on Healthy Aging. Many of these adults also reported an increased fear of falling.

Fall research suggests that both reduced physical conditioning and fear of falling can increase future fall risk and reduce independence. As the pandemic eases in the United States, the poll leaders note that better awareness of this connection could help motivate adults of any age to safely increase or maintain their physical activity — especially if they have been less active or mobile due to the pandemic.

Despite this study and data, a range of organizations, including councils on aging, have offered virtual exercise programs and physical activity kits for older adults to stay active at home. In addition, walking has remained among the physical activities that people of all ages could engage in and enjoy during the pandemic. MHAC’s partners at WalkBoston continue to advocate for safer and walkable communities. MHAC itself serves on the Massachusetts Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Board to encourage inclusion of older adults in their work.

MHAC, WalkBoston, the Executive Office of Elder Affairs and others have supported the Mass. Department of Transportation (MassDOT) programs to create inclusive infrastructure improvements, which most notably includes the Shared Streets & Spaces program.

To see the report based on the National Poll on Healthy Aging, follow this link.