HEPA edition:11 location:Istanbul date:7-9 October 2015
When older adults become aware of their age, their perception of the age norms associated with a specific type of physical exercise can affect their motivation to perform this exercise. Based on an integration of the Social Identity Approach and Self-Determination Theory, the aim of the present study was to investigate the effects of the salience of their older age and of age norms on their (autonomous) motivation to exercise.
One hundred and twenty older adults between 65-70 years were invited to evaluate a (fictitious) new exercise activity, labeled ‘Pattern Stepping’. They were randomly assigned to one of four experimental conditions in which the salience of their age was manipulated (salient versus non-salient) together with the age norms for pattern stepping (matching versus not matching older age). Participants completed measures of different forms of motivation before and after performing pattern stepping.
Repeated Measures ANOVAs revealed that, contrary to the expectations, autonomous motivation decreased when older age was salient and pattern stepping was presented to be age normative for older adults (i.e., matching). Moreover, autonomous motivation increased when pattern stepping was presented as age normative for younger adults (i.e., non-matching).
Discussion and Conclusion
Considering that most participants did not identify themselves as an older adult (72.5%), the findings suggest that age norms for exercise should match the subjective (and not the objective) age of an older adult to enhance autonomous motivation. Identification potentially determines whether norms elicit autonomous or controlled motivation.