Leveraging social networks: a novel physical activity intervention for senior housing

Life Course

Project Summary

While only 16% of people age 65+ engage in recommended physical activity levels, activating social resources may increase physical activity. We propose a social network-based approach that systematically identifies and involves influential agents of change in a community to facilitate physical activity-related information dissemination and behavior change. This project will leverage Go4Life – the National Institute of Aging’s evidence-based physical activity campaign – and capitalize on the strength of social ties. The intervention addresses socio-economically linked health disparities by developing the intervention for use in affordable (HUD subsidized) senior housing.

The project will address three specific aims:

  1. Identify agents of change in an affordable senior housing community who and invite them to form a committee to disseminate Go4Life materials through planning, publicizing, and participating in community-wide activities over 12 months.
  2. Evaluate intervention feasibility using a mixed methods approach.
  3. Establish preliminary network effect on changes in physical activity and identify influential network mechanisms.

This project is the first step in using locally available and low-cost resources to affect behavior change among socio-economically vulnerable senior housing residents. In the short-term, findings will provide preliminary data to conduct a multi-site efficacy trial which will implement and evaluate successful components of the intervention. In the long-term, understanding how to leverage social networks to promote and sustain increases in physical activity will provide key information to advance the science of behavior change as well as reduce health disparities.


Noah J Webster, Toni C Antonucci

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