Personal goals in old age - relationships with resources in life, exercise activity and life-space mobility

Participation in activities according to one’s personal goals is a central component of active aging. This study explored what kinds of personal goals older people have, how these goals change over the years, and how they relate to resources in life. The cross-sectional and longitudinal associations of personal goals with exercise activity and life-space mobility were also examined.

The thesis forms part of two larger studies: Life-Space Mobility in Old Age (LISPE) and the Finnish Twin Study on Aging (FITSA). Data on 824 men and women from the LISPE study (mean age 80.1 y), and 308 women from the FITSA study (mean age 71.2 y) were analyzed. Personal goals were obtained with a revised version of the Personal Project Analysis. Measures of life resources, mobility limitation and physical activity were self-reported. Life-space mobility was assessed with the University of Alabama at Birmingham Study of Aging Life-Space Assessment.

Health maintenance goals were the most commonly reported and they correlated with good health resources. In contrast, recovery goals were more often reported by people with poor health and functioning. Good health resources were associated with goal setting related to other people, leisure-time activities and physical activities. Activity goals were often abandoned with aging, at least partly due to mobility decline. Exercise-related goals correlated with higher exercise activity both cross-sectionally and longitudinally. Life-space mobility was higher among those with goals related to activeness in daily life, mental health, and exercise when compared to those not reporting such goals. Over the two-year follow-up, goals related to maintaining functioning predicted higher life-space mobility – an indicator of community participation.

Poor health and functioning may prevent older people from engaging in active goals in their lives. However, goal engagement may also promote active aging and participation, even in the face of decline in health and functioning. Therefore, older people should be encouraged to actively strive for personal goals in their lives.

The dissertation is available on website below:


City (for University):
University of Jyväskylä