Celebrating Active Streets // Active People Research Participants: Looking back, and stepping forward

“It was lovely to see [your research team again] and to see the results of your study. I very much enjoyed being a participant and would certainly be willing to take part in any future studies.”

– Johanna, ASAP research participant

By Leigh Farran

P1040266After many exciting and hardworking months, the Active Streets // Active People, Senior team has officially completed data collection. Participants, team members, our funders- Peter Wall Solutions Initiative, and City of Vancouver affiliates, celebrated together on Thursday, February 12, at the beautiful Barclay Place Manor—home to the West End Seniors’ Network. Here we shared snacks and stories, and discussed the poster displays showcasing preliminary and related research findings (more details on this below).

An outstanding 51 people attended the event, exemplifying the ongoing enthusiasm and commitment from our participants – a key to the project’s success. Thank you to all of our attendees, and to Suzanne Therrien (ASAP Project Manager) for organizing the celebration!

Here is a recap of the research finding displays:

Seniors’ Walkability Environmental Assessment Tool

P1040262Rachel Wong and Caitlin Pugh (Centre for Hip Health and Mobility (CHHM) Research Assistants) showcased the Senior Walkability Environmental Assessment Tool

(SWEAT-R) street audits completed in the summers of 2012 and 2014 in Vancouver’s West End. Changes to the Comox Greenway were quantified in the street assessment. The visual map displayed both supportive features and barriers for older adults’ environmental walkability. At the event, ASAP participants marked what they found helpful and accessible on the photo display of street features.

I grew up on a bike’: Cycling & older adults

P1040244Thea Franke (PhD student), displayed the ASAP study findings on older adults cycling habits. Results showed that cycling mode share was three times higher (3.2%) than the mode share for older adults living in the Metro Vancouver region (1%). The bikeable infrastructure and improved ability to access a broad social environment facilitate cycling amongst the participants; however, safety significantly deterred many participants from adopting cycling as a commonplace transportation option.

What does walkability mean to you?

Callista Haggis (Knowledge Broker & Qualitative Project Manager) presented responses from one of the in-depth interview questions her team asked to a subset of 26 ASAP participants. She displayed quotations on a board and then asked the ASAP participants that attended the open house to put a dot beside the answers that were in line with their views.

P1040231What does walkability mean to ASAP participants? Here are the responses that were the most popular with those that attended the celebration event:

  • “Well, it’s exercise. You need exercise. And not only that you go cuckoo if you just stay inside all the time.”
  • “It means I can walk to the store, doctors, dentist, to do shopping basically. To do my chores.”
  • “I don’t see how anybody can be miserable when they’ve been out for a walk and [the natural environment] looks gorgeous.”

The secrets to a long and healthy life? – Walk to the coffee shop!P1040200

An analysis of older adults’ walking patterns in the West End revealed that coffee shops are very popular destinations! At the celebration, Stephan Zimmermann (CHHM Research Assistant) presented GPS track data, spatial analysis, and travel log entries which collectively showed coffee shops as a reoccurring destination in many participants walking routes. At the event, many participants shared and compared their favourite walking routes to those on display. It was no big surprise that Davie St. and Denman St. are particularly well-travelled areas of the West End- so next time you’re in the area, say hi to your fellow ASAP participants!

Transport-related physical activity

Christine Voss (Postdoctoral Research Fellow) presented GPS and accelerometer data regarding transport-related physical activity patterns of ASAP participants. Some of the main findings from this data set were:

  1. More than ¾ of all ASAP Sr. trips were by active modes (walk, bike, public transit).
  2. Although walk trips were usually the shortest, the pace was mostly at a moderate-vigorous intensity (the exercise intensity recommended by Health Canada).
  3. Public transit trips yielded as much physical activity as walking trips due to the walking to and from transit stops/stations.
  4. Transport-related physical activity contributes meaningfully to meeting physical activity guidelines!

Keep on walking and talking: Green neighbourhood design contributes to maintaining healthy communities

Lena Fleig (Postdoctoral Research Fellow) presented findings from ASAP accelerometery and questionnaire data. She addressed a gap in the current academic literature by analyzing how social activity and physical activity patterns changes over time. Although physical activity and mobility usually decline with age, her findings suggest that ASAP participants: “Keep on walking and talking” –participants were highly active prior to and after built environment changes, and women, in particular, maintained their social community engagement.

ASAP prize winners with Suzanne

The ASAP Sr. research team really enjoyed getting to know the all of the ASAP participants. The participants were engaged, thoughtful and had a diverse set of interests. Although there is an element of sadness to be concluding the data collection portion of the project, we look forward to diving deeper into the data to learn and share even more about what gets and keeps older adults active and moving within their neighbourhood!

Congratulations to our prize winners at the event, and a big thank-you to everyone who was involved in the Active Streets Active People Sr. project!


Leigh Farran is an undergraduate research assistant, studying Health Sciences in Kinesiology at the University of British Columbia. Her interests lie in the promotion of active aging and geriatric health.

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