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Behaviour Change Interventions in Later Life


What were we trying to do?

Our aim was to develop an evidence base on behaviour change interventions and identify the characteristics and components of those interventions that were most effective in improving physical activity and reducing sedentary behaviours in older residents in Greater Manchester.


Why was it important?

Life expectancy is increasing in high-income countries and as the global population continues to age, this change is one of the most important longer-term issues facing health and social care provision. Multiple long-term health conditions and disability are all common in later life, many of which are preventable. As a result, many care systems are adopting a risk reduction approach in order to reduce multi-morbidities and risk of poor health and improving wellbeing for residents approaching later life, by advocating and implementing lifestyle changes.


There is a growing evidence base to suggest that reducing sedentary behaviour and participating in physical activity regularly is beneficial for physical and mental health across all ages. With our specific focus on ageing, evidence has shown that physical activity has been important in the prevention and/or delayed onset of conditions such as; stroke, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, falls and cognitive decline. Physical activity also has the benefit of allowing people to remain functional and independent, for as long as possible in their own environment, leading to a decreased need for hospitalisation/ institutionalisation, increased socioeconomic benefits and improved individual wellbeing.


Despite these benefits, the adoption of regular physical activity remains a challenge for many and activity rates often decline, especially in later life. The promotion and maintenance of physical activity in older adults to aid healthy ageing is important and clear guidance is needed on the most effective, sustainable and safest ways to achieve this, which are; inclusive of people across all socio-demographic groups, adaptable for a range of people with different needs (existing disabilities, underlying conditions, mobility restrictions and so forth) and achievable in a variety of settings (community, health and social care), in order to produce a widespread impact.


How did we do it?

We conducted a systematic review of the published data, which included primary intervention studies, reviews of published literature and relevant policy and planning documents. Our key areas of interest were:


  • How do we reduce poor health behaviour (sedentary behaviours, smoking and alcohol intake) in older adults?
  • How do we improve diet and achieve healthy weight in older adults, reducing malnutrition and dehydration?  


Previous reviews had focused on physical activity promotion in children and younger adults as well as much older adults and those with specific underlying health conditions. To the best of our knowledge, there had been little focus on systematically examining evidence identifying effective behaviour change interventions and techniques to improve physical activity promotion and maintenance in community dwelling adults in the 50 to 70 year old age group. With a steadily ageing population, our focus on this specific age group was a key priority. Our intention was to put into practice behaviour changes that would improve the health and wellbeing of individuals at an earlier time point in their lives, as well as helping to reduce the burden on health and social care services that are needed as people age.


Effective policies for healthy ageing require multidisciplinary and robust evidence bases to inform the development and implementation process. This systematic review aimed to highlight the current knowledge gaps, identify effective techniques, contribute to the development of physical activity programmes that were suitable and sustainable for wide scale implementation and explore the long-term effects as well as the barriers and facilitators that older adults can face with regards to participation and adherence in such programmes.




Who did we work with?


More information



Programme Manager
Gill Rizzello

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