Healthy aging through the lens of community-based practitioners: a focus group study
Rubee Dev, Oleg Zaslavsky, Barbara Cochrane, Thomas Eagen, Nancy F Woods
<jats:bold>Background:</jats:bold> Nearly one in every seven Americans is 65 years and older, facing day-to-day challenge of aging. Although interest in healthy aging is growing, most of the efforts are directed towards understanding the perceptions of older adults. Little is known about the perspectives of community-based practitioners who work with older adults and deliver programs to promote healthy aging. The purpose of this project was to expand knowledge on healthy aging by exploring the perspectives of community-based practitioners working directly with older adults. <jats:bold>Methods:</jats:bold> We purposively sampled community-based practitioners (n=12, including nurses, physician, social workers, and other community services professionals) working with older adults, who then participated in one of three in-depth focus group discussions conducted between March and June 2016. Each focus group discussion lasted for about two hours. Verbatim transcript data were analyzed in Atlas.ti 7 using a conventional content analysis with an inductive approach, and consensual validation of coding was achieved.<jats:bold>Results:</jats:bold> Three core categories of healthy aging were identified: (1) characteristics of healthy aging; (2) healthy aging attainment; and (3) programs and activities for healthy aging. Practitioners identified a number of characteristics of healthy aging under person-specific (physiological, basic, psych-emotional, and cognitive needs), social aspects (creating community and contributing to the community), and spiritual dimensions (cultural views and beliefs) of healthy aging. Healthy aging attainment was represented as facilitators and barriers both with respect to care recipients and care providers, and programs and activities through promoting fitness and wellness. <jats:bold>Conclusions:</jats:bold> The rapidly changing demographics and aging population in the United States and their various needs suggest the implications for recognizing opportunities and developing and implementing programs to promote healthy aging. Although practitioners' perspectives had some overlap with traditional research and medical views on healthy aging, the unique and holistic conceptual framework derived in the study might provide a more refined foundation for delivering appropriate health care services to the American aging population.
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