Environments for Healthy and Active Ageing

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisCollection of Articles


Our populations are ageing at fast and at the same time our globe is confronting significant health challenges including increases in physical inactivity, obesity, and other non-communicable diseases. Maintaining mobility and physical activity are fundamental factors in healthy ageing, and the physical environment has been linked to various individual health outcomes. Understanding what kinds of environments can support older adults' everyday mobility can help researchers, planners and decision makers find ways to facilitate and motivate older adults to move outdoors and in planning healthy communities. Ecological models propose that multiple levels of factors influence health behavior, often including the physical, sociocultural, and policy environments as well as individuals' personal psychological and sociodemographic backgrounds. In this thesis, address the gap in health pro-motion research, which have had methodological challenges in capturing the complex interactions of individual and physical environmental characteristics in certain spatial settings. Thus, the pos-sibilities and challenges of online participatory mapping method in health promotion research and among older adults are studied. I also study different physical environmental contexts and how they are associated with the health and physical activity of older adults, namely adults aged 55 to 75, in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area, Finland. My findings show that participatory mapping methods are well suited for health promotion research and offer ways to overcome the challenges previous studies have had in capturing the spatiality of human health behavior. The online participatory mapping method was found suitable for older adults but there are some cognitive, sensory, and motor challenges that need to be con-sidered. Additionally, the findings show that the built environment is direclty linked to older adults' walking, and that green and blue spaces close to home describe older adults' perceptions of a quality environment, and thus could motivate older adults getting outdoors. Moreover, the findings show that the physical environment is associated with the perceived health of older adults, but the way the environment is studied and measured should be carefully considered. I conclude that the physical environment can play a core role in supporting older adults' health behavior despite their personal interests and background. Furthermore, I present a revised ecological model of physical activity where the context is given its place. In the future, studies in the field of health promotion should investigate simultaneously the per-sonal, sociocultural, and psychological as well as the physical and policy environment features with spatially bounded context-specific methods. Emphasis should be given to longitudinal studies to more comprehensively examine causal relations. Moreover, I would recommend future research to place focus not only on what is inside one's head but more on what one's head is inside of.
Translated title of the contributionTerveyttä ja aktiivista ikääntymistä tukevat ympäristöt
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor's degree
Awarding Institution
  • Aalto University
  • Kyttä, Marketta, Supervising Professor
  • Kyttä, Marketta, Thesis Advisor
Print ISBNs978-952-60-8473-2
Electronic ISBNs978-952-60-3779-0
Publication statusPublished - 2019
MoE publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)


  • older adults
  • everyday physical activity
  • physical environment
  • health
  • participatory mapping
  • ecological models


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