Background Whilst there have been several robust reviews of the quantitative literature surrounding physical activity in older adults, less has been published on the qualitative literature in this field. Qualitative data can be of great value to researchers designing interventions as it can lead to greater insight into how individuals understand the social world and how they conceptualise and understand health messages. This can be used to aid selection of the theoretical elements of an intervention and to design specific components. Previous qualitative syntheses in this field have been limited in scope or methodology, or have comprised a narrative review of the quantitative and qualitative literature. It is therefore clear that there is a need for a thorough, rigorous, and interpretive synthesis of the qualitative literature surrounding older adults and physical activity.
Methods The electronic databases MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL, PsychINFO and Web of Science were systematically searched for qualitative studies with adults aged 50 years and over on physical activity. Following title/abstract and full-text screening, eligible papers were included in the final synthesis. Findings from all papers were coded and descriptive themes constructed. We attempted a meta-ethnographic approach, aiming to go beyond the findings of the primary studies to generate third order interpretations about older adults’ accounts of physical activity.
Results After de-duplication, 5038 titles were retrieved from the database search. All retrieved papers were screened by title and abstract, and a random sample of 10% were double-screened (kappa score for agreement 0.74; strong agreement). 380 papers were subject to full-text screening, and of these 66 papers met the inclusion criteria. The findings from the included papers were subject to in-depth, line-by-line coding. Studies varied greatly in methodological and analytical quality. Descriptive themes, including for example ideas on mortality, life as purposeful, and concept of self, were constructed from the studies, and studies were translated into one another to generate additional understandings on the topic.
Discussion We will present details of the results of our meta-ethnography, and we shall discuss our conclusions on the value of this exercise in this topic area.
- qualitative synthesis
- older adults
- physical activity
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