Reviewing Physical Activity in Older Adulthood

Challenging negative ageing stereotypes to encourage the physical activity industry to better cater for older adults and increase participation.



Catalyst R2

Lead Organisation

University of Bath


South West (England)


Social Support Connections, Sustaining Physical Activity

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About the project

Physical activity in older age helps reduce or even reverse chronic disease and increase overall wellbeing. But negative social stereotypes around what older adults can or want to do, and lack of accommodation for their needs and preferences, can deter older adults from taking part. This project aims to challenge negative ageing stereotypes through creating films that can spark a shift in attitudes and encourage the physical activity industry to better cater for older adults.

Increasing physical activity in older age helps to reduce, delay or even reverse the development of chronic diseases, and can improve mobility, enhance wellbeing and reduce social isolation. However, most older adults don’t get enough physical activity to benefit. Some of this may be due to negative social stereotypes about what older adults can and cannot do, and depictions of older people as frail and incapable. Negative stereotypes make older adults feel less welcome or accepted in the spaces where activity happens, deter physical activity and reduce social support. They can also deter the providers of products and services that promote physical activity from catering for older adults.

This project aims to challenge and reverse negative stereotyping of ageing and physical activity through creating ‘trigger films’ to spark a societal shift in opinions and attitudes, prompting people to see things differently. This needs action at a whole-society level. Cultural and social changes in attitudes and norms in other stigmatised groups have been influenced by specific, memorable moments that caught public attention. For example, TV shows with provocative storylines about homophobia and mental health, or David Attenborough’s Blue Planet triggering combined public, policy and industry action to reduce plastic use.

I will bring expertise in communication theory and behavioural science to harness this approach and apply it to the portrayal of physical activity in later life, working with creative industries and older adults themselves. We will co-create attention-grabbing and attitude- shifting video resources and test their effects on reducing stereotypes across society.


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