Studies have shown that physical activity benefits older adults’ cardiovascular health, incidence of falls, symptoms of depression, and overall sense of well-being. Several effective physical activity interventions for older adults are ready for widescale use; these interventions include instructor-led aerobic or strength classes, telephone counseling, educational programs, and promoting walking trails. The center established the Southeast Senior Physical Activity Network (SESPAN) to promote and sustain programs that increase physical activity among low-income ethnically diverse older adults of Southeast Seattle.
A community organizer, hired to develop SESPAN, built relationships with community groups that work on physical activity for older adults as well as groups indirectly related to physical activity, such as businesses, community coalitions, schools, and health-care providers. From 2004-2009, the community organizer logged 630 contacts with 110 different organizations.
SESPAN created the Healthy and Active Rainier Valley Coalition (HARRVC), which has a core membership of 15-20 regular attendees. The coalition started 16 ongoing exercise classes and walking groups, which have reached at least 13% of the older adults in Southeast Seattle.
Replication of this project may not be possible in communities that lack the resources to fund an organizer for an extended period. This project re-emphasized the importance of finding organizational champions that have the financial resources and ability to implement programs. Even though the SESPAN project has ended, HARVC continues to sustain activities.
Cheadle A, Egger R, LoGerfo JP, Schwartz S, Harris JR. Promoting sustainable community change in support of older adult physical activity: evaluation findings from the Southeast Seattle Senior Physical Activity Network (SESPAN). Journal of Urban Health 2010 Jan;87(1):67-75.
Cheadle A, Egger R, LoGerfo JP, Walwick J, Schwartz S. A community-organizing approach to promoting physical activity in older adults: the southeast senior physical activity network. Health Promotion Practice 2010 March;11(2):197-204.