Outdoor rehabilitation

The project intends to explore outdoor environments for rehabilitation for older people. The project is based on an understanding of the relationship between the individual and the physical environment, and that the development of age friendly cities and communities is central for older peoples’ engagement in outdoor environments.

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As a response to an aging population worldwide, there has been an increased interest for aging in place policies, internationally. Aging in place is considered to be a cost-saving solution for health care and a symbol of independence and autonomy for older adults.

Definitions of aging in place are, however, not exclusively unambiguous. Some definitions of aging in place stresse the ability to live in one’s own home, whereas other definitions emphasize the possibility of continuing to live in one’s community. Further, aging in place is not only connected to the assumption that people want to continue living in their home, as it also applies to the attachment to the social connections, safety, familiarity, and sense of identity that is brought on by places. What older persons perceive as their place of significance, varies. Hence, a scholarly discourse regarding the concept ageing in the right place has emerged. 

In this project, we challenge existing assumptions of aging in place as a concept, exploring how outdoor places can be meaningful and significant arenas for rehabilitation for older people. 

The project was initiated by Vestvågøy municipality in Northern Norway, who got funding by the Regional Research Fund of Nordland (RFF) (ID: 317277) to co-create a model for outdoor recreation for older people. In this part of the project, we implemented outdoor recreation as part of a reablement service for older people within the rural arctic municipality of Vestvågøy (Lofoten, Norway). The project intends to explore experiences with the outdoor recreation model, and to develop the model further by adapting it to other contexts and communities. 


Emplacing reablement co-creating an outdoor recreation model in the rural Arctic

Eliassen, Sørensen, Hartviksen, Holm & Zingmark, 2023. International Journal of Circumpolar Health 

Reablement aims to enable older persons with functional decline to re-engage in meaningful activities. The benefits of engagement in outdoor activities are significant; however, reablement services primarily target function in indoor environments whereas descriptions of outdoor activities are sparse. The aim of this study was to create a model that integrates outdoor recreation into reablement. We therefore elaborated on an experienced based co-design methodology to create a model that integrates outdoor recreation for older persons in reablement in an Arctic, rural context in northern Norway. Stakeholders (N = 35), including reablement participants, participated in workshops, focus groups, and individual interviews. Based on the results, we co-created a person-centred model for outdoor recreation in reablement, including an assessment tool that can guide reablement staff in goal-setting practices. Accordingly, we argue that cherished locations holds significant meaning in the lives of older people and warrant recognition in reablement programmes. There is a need to evaluate the effects and feasibility of the model and the possibility for its implementation in other health care settings.

Contact for more information: marianne.eliassen@uit.no