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Author ORCID Identifier



Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Cynthia S. Jacelon

Second Advisor

Jeungok Choi

Third Advisor

Katherine Boyer

Subject Categories

Geriatric Nursing | Medicine and Health Sciences | Public Health and Community Nursing


The purpose of this study was to determine if brief motivational interviewing (MI) sessions would increase daily steps and functional ability in older adults. Regular exercise in the older adult can slow the physical, psychological, and functional decline that is often associated with aging. However, only 25% of adults aged 65 and older meet the suggested physical activity recommendations of the American Heart Association and the National Institute of Health. Understanding what may contribute to the initiation and adherence of exercise within the older adult population might identify interventions that would successfully increase physical activity. This study focused specifically on walking since walking is familiar to older adults and requires minimal resources.

The Transtheoretical Model of Behavior Change (TTM) states that individuals move through a series of stages when initiating a new behavior. The stage of change is highly correlated to the initiation or maintenance of a health behavior. Changing behaviors can be challenging because it involves changing established routines. The intervention in this study, MI, is based on the TTM. MI focuses on behavioral skill-building that empowers subjects to learn how to effectively change lifestyle behaviors.

This quasi-experimental study, conducted between May and August 2017, utilized the Senior Fitness Test (SFT), walking logs, and pedometers to assess number of daily steps and functional ability within two groups of older adults living in western Massachusetts. Subjects for this convenience sample were recruited through local senior centers.

The Analysis of Covariance was utilized for data analysis to assess daily steps and functional ability between the MI group and the control group. Posttesting analyses revealed that the intervention group had improved in all senior function tests; however, only the SFT eight-foot up-and-go test demonstrated a significant difference between the two groups (p = .035).

This study indicates that MI did have an effect on increasing daily walking within the intervention group; however, future research will need to focus not only on the psychological effects of initiating and maintaining exercise (specifically walking) within the older adult population but also will need to include environmental considerations such as walkable sidewalks and seasonal effects.