Barriers and facilitators to social participation in older adults: a systematic literature review

Braedon G. Townsend, Jessamine T-H. Chen, Viviana M. Wuthrich*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Objectives: Social participation has been shown to improve health, well-being, and quality of life in older adults. Previous reviews on social participation have been limited to identifying logistical barriers. The current review sought to examine barriers of social participation more broadly, as well as potential facilitators.
Methods: We conducted a systematic review to collate identified barriers and facilitators to social participation in older adults. Seventy-six studies were eligible for inclusion.
Results: Four main themes of barriers and facilitators to social participation associated with aging emerged: Demographic factors (such as age and socioeconomic status), Individual/Internal factors (such as motivations and health), Environmental/Infrastructure (such as accessibility, transport, and neighborhood cohesion), and Social Networks (particularly preexisting network size).
Conclusions: These findings extended previous reviews to show that personal motivations, preexisting social networks, and neighborhood cohesion play vital roles in improving and maintaining quality social participation. The ability to facilitate this can occur at the individual therapeutic level and at the community level.
Clinical implications: The findings highlight the need to consider barriers beyond logistical issues. In particular, healthy aging initiatives may benefit from matching social activities with individual motivations, and preventive measures to establish social networks early in the aging process are important.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)359-380
Number of pages22
JournalClinical Gerontologist
Issue number4
Early online date3 Jan 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • aging
  • barriers
  • facilitators
  • older adults
  • social participation


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