Voisinuage : Description

Title: Influence of neighbourhood of residence on the lifestyle habits and health of seniors.

Project description
Good lifestyle habits—regular physical activity, high level of social participation and healthy eating—are associated with better population health, including the health of seniors. Many studies have looked at personal characteristics (e.g. age, sex) of individuals who do or do not adopt these lifestyle habits. However little importance has been given to environmental factors that could be associated with these lifestyle habits or with the health of seniors. Neighbourhood of residence can be particularly significant for older people because of the decline in physical and cognitive skills, mobility and social support that is common at this stage of life. Neighbourhood can have an influence on seniors' lifestyle habits and health. For instance, having parks in a neighbourhood can encourage walking and therefore have an impact on the physical health of residents. The built environment, resources and services available in a neighbourhood play important roles in walking, social relationships and conviviality. This is the context in which the VoisiNuAge (acronym that refers to neighbourhood, nutrition and older people – voisinage, nutrition and personnes âgées) study is being conducted. It focuses in particular on the influence of neighbourhood of residence on seniors' lifestyle habits and health.
The main objectives of the VoisiNuAge study are as follows:
  1. To describe how seniors' physical activity, social participation and eating habits evolve over a period of five years
  2. Identify neighbourhood characteristics that can play a role in older people's physical activity, social participation and eating habits, and create variables that can measure these characteristics
  3. Measure the influence of neighbourhood of residence on seniors' physical activity, social participation and eating habits
To attain these objectives the VoisiNuAge study has integrated data from two provincial research platforms: Étude longitudinale québécoise sur la nutrition et le vieillissement réussi (NuAge) and Megaphone (Montreal Epidemiological and Geographical Analysis of Population Health Outcomes and Neighbourhood Effects).
The subject of NuAge is diet and successful aging. This platform comprises a cohort of 1,793 seniors aged 67 to 85 living in Sherbrooke, Laval and Montréal. The study began in 2003 and participants were followed over a five-year period. Data collected from these participants touch upon biological, functional, psychological and social aspects.
Megaphone is a project that uses geographic information systems to assign geographical coordinates (geocoding) to a participant's neighbourhood of residence. With this technology, a variety of information can be collected on the physical dimensions of neighbourhoods such as quality of the road network, distance between a participant's residence and key resources (community centre, pharmacy, parks) or vegetation in the area.
The VoisiNuAge project looks at NuAge participants living in the regions of Montréal and Laval during the third year of the study. The sample is composed of 848 participants. Walking habits, social participation and eating habits were measured. Concurrently, measures on neighbourhood of residence were obtained from the Megaphone database and included connectivity, distance to key resources, proportion of food stores in the neighbourhood, and presence of vegetation.
Initial VoisiNuAge results allowed to determine that seniors' accessibility to key resources (e.g. community centres, libraries, shopping malls) foster better walking habits. Similarly, perceived access to key resources is linked to greater social participation. Results also indicate that participants' eating habits are associated with presence of shops that sell healthy food or junk food in a neighbourhood. Another aspect currently being examined is the relationship between neighbourhood of residence and symptoms of depression in seniors.
In conclusion, by using these two platforms, it was possible to integrate environmental aspects to gain further insight into individual behaviours. Researchers were thus able to demonstrate that individual characteristics are not the only influence on seniors' lifestyle habits: neighbourhood characteristics, particularly distance to key resources, also appear to have an impact on older people's physical activity, social participation and eating habits.