Otago Polytechnic
CORP staff LindaRobertson 003

Social connectedness enhances elderly mobility

Linda Robertson

Friends protect against falls. This was among the findings of Linda Robertson who set out to investigate a current research gap by evaluating what factors contribute to the successful maintenance and sustainability of elderly mobility and falls preventions groups organised by Age Concern (Otago). 

Using a qualitative, descriptive research method, individual interviews were conducted with seven focus groups comprised of group organisers and exercise group members. The study found that three major themes emerged.

The first was the already noted physical benefits of attending the group. Participants identified everyday movements they could now do that they couldn’t before, such as “standing up in church without having to hold on to the pews” as one participant reported.

The second, previously unidentified, theme was that of social connectedness. “The thing they talked about with most enthusiasm was the social value,” notes Linda. “Although they weren’t necessarily creating pals for life they were getting meaningful contact amongst a caring culture modelled by the peer leaders”.

Thirdly, support needs were identified as being of importance to the ongoing maintenance of the groups.

This research is significant as it has successfully identified some of the underpinning mechanisms that make elderly falls prevention programmes work. This gives hope that future elderly exercise groups will be able to replicate the success of these falls preventions group by ensuring that new groups are also peer-led and emphasise positive social links.


Robertson, L., Hale, B., Waters, D., Hale, L., & Andrew, A. (2014). Community peer-led exercise groups: Reasons for success. The Internet Journal of Allied Health Sciences and Practice, 12(2)