Activity theory, a construct from social gerontology, provides a framework to bridge the themes of ageing and transport, and thus enable new insights into the role of out-of-home mobility for wellbeing. The theory proposes that undertaking activities (classified as formal, informal and solitary) can generate wellbeing benefits for older people. Transport can be an important enabling mechanism for activity, but such engagement is at risk should access to a car be lost at a time of declining public transport provision in many communities in countries like the UK.
Analysis of survey data collected by the ‘Grey and Pleasant Land?’ study of UK rural citizens aged sixty and above (N = 920), which explores activity participation for groups with and without car access. As well as descriptive analysis of the data, a series of binary logistic regression models facilitate exploration of relationships between mobility and activity, and then activity and wellbeing.
Those with car access are up to three times more likely to participate in formal activity (OR 3.228; CI 1.656, 6.293). More surprisingly, there are higher levels of informal activity for those without car access (65% of this group engage in activity with friends’ weekly compared to only 51% of those with car access). The wellbeing measures proved less conclusive, although lack of weekly activity with friends and family slightly increases the probability of loneliness (OR 1.472; CI .877, 2.470). Age and health are seemingly more important factors.
Links are seen between formal activity and mobility, but less so for informal activity. In both instances, activities are relatively local; suggesting endeavours to improve mobility and activity will achieve optimum wellbeing and community cohesion benefits at a local level. Activity theory does appear to offer promise as a way of exploring these issues.
Shergold, I. (2019). Taking part in activities, an exploration of the role of discretionary travel in older people's wellbeing. Journal of Transport and Health, 12, 195-205. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jth.2019.01.005