Changes in Physical Activity, Physical Function and Cognitive Function with Transition to Retirement Living
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Physical activity is associated with slower physical and cognitive decline with aging. However, there are many barriers to physical activity among community-dwelling older adults. Retirement living may facilitate physical activity by reducing health, social, and environmental barriers for seniors. The purpose of this thesis was to: (1) quantify changes in physical activity and physical function over the transition to retirement living; (2) examine the relationship between participant characteristics and physical activity in retirement living; and (3) describe the relationship between change in physical activity and change in physical and cognitive function. Older adults on the wait-lists for or living in retirement living were recruited. Physical activity was assessed with the Actigraph activity monitor and the CHAMPS activity questionnaire. Physical function was measured with the Senior Fitness Test. Cognitive function was assessed with a 45-minute test battery that assessed a variety of cognitive domains. In this study, objectively measured physical activity decreased with the transition to retirement living; however, it appeared that intentional exercise increased while activities of daily living (ADLs) decreased. Additionally, endurance, agility, and strength improved after the transition. In retirement living, physical activity was positively associated with endurance, agility, and strength, as well as balance confidence, memory and executive function. However, change in physical activity over the transition to retirement living was not positively correlated with changes in physical or cognitive function. The results from this study, the first to prospectively follow older adults over the transition to retirement living, indicate that physical activity decreases due to a large drop in ADLs with the transition, though physical function appeared to improve. Future studies should expand the timeline used in this thesis to better understand change in physical activity and function. In addition, strategies to overcome the decrease in physical activity due to a drop in ADLs should be developed.