Promoting outdoor recreation among older adults in Sweden: – a theoretical and empirical foundation for the development of an intervention

Magnus Zingmark, Rosemarie Ankre, Sandra Wall-Reinius

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Disengagement from outdoor recreation may diminish the positive benefits on health and well-being
in old age. The purpose of this study is to present a contextual, theoretical, and empirical rationale for an
intervention, aiming to promote continued engagement in outdoor recreation for older adults in a Swedish
Methods: The paper includes a contextualization of outdoor recreation in Sweden, a presentation of evidence on
health benefits related to engagement in outdoor recreation, together with theoretical frameworks that may guide
future intervention designs. To add empirical knowledge, a mixed methods approach was applied, including an
empirical data collection based on a quantitative survey (n = 266) and individual semi-structured interviews with
older adults (n = 12). Survey data were presented with descriptive statistics. Associations between disengagement
from previously performed activities and age and gender was analyzed with Chi2 tests. Transcripts and handwritten
notes from the interviews were analyzed qualitatively to identify key themes, as well as patterns and disparities
among respondents.
Results: Outdoor recreation was rated as important/very important by 90% of respondents of the survey. The
interviews highlighted that engagement in outdoor recreation aided respondents to keep fit but had also relevance
in terms of identity, experiences, and daily routines. Outdoor recreation close to the place of residence was most
common and walking was the most frequently reported activity. While 80% considered their health to be good/
very good, disability and long-term diseases were common and during the previous year, more than half of all
respondents had disengaged from activities previously performed. Reasons for disengagement were mainly related
to health decline or that activities were too demanding but also due to social loss. The interviews indicated that
continued engagement was important but challenging, and that disengagement could be considered as a loss or
accepted due to changing circumstances.
Original languageEnglish
Article number232
Number of pages15
JournalArchives of Public Health
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Dec 27

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Human Geography
  • Gerontology, specializing in Medical and Health Sciences


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