Interventions addressing functional abilities of older people in rural and remote areas: a scoping review of available evidence based on WHO functional ability domains

Ivy Yan Zhao, Jed Montayre, Angela Y.M. Leung, Jann Foster, Ariana Kong, Stephen Neville, Ramona Ludolph, Christopher Mikton, Alana Officer, Alex Molassiotis

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review


Background: The World Health Organization (WHO) encourages healthy ageing strategies to help develop and maintain older people’s functional abilities in five domains: their ability to meet basic needs; learn, grow, and make decisions; be mobile; build and maintain relationships, and contribute to society. This scoping review reports the available evidence-based interventions that have been undertaken with people ≥ 50 years of age in rural and remote areas and the outcomes of those interventions relevant to enhancing functional ability. Methods: The scoping review was undertaken following the JBI methodology. A literature search was carried out to identify published intervention studies for enhancing functional ability in older people living in rural and remote settings. The databases searched included CINAHL, Scopus, ProQuest Central, PubMed, EBSCOHost, APA PsycInfo,, and the European Network for Rural Development Projects and Practice database. Gray literature sources included government reports, websites, policy papers, online newsletters, and studies from a bibliographic hand search of included studies. Results: Literature published from January 2010 to March 9, 2021 were included for review. A total of 67 studies were identified, including quasi-experimental studies (n = 44), randomized controlled trials (n = 22), and a descriptive study. Five main types of interventions were conducted in rural and remote areas with older people: Community Services, Education and Training, Exercise and Physical Activity, Health Promotion Programmes, and Telehealth. Health Promotion Programmes (n = 28, 41.8%) were the most frequently reported interventions. These focused primarily on improving the ability to meet basic needs. About half (n = 35, 52.2%) of the included studies were linked to the ability to learn, grow, and make decisions, and 40% of studies (n = 27) were relevant to the ability to be mobile. Only a very limited number of intervention studies were geared towards outcomes such as maintaining relationships (n = 6) and contributing to society (n = 3). Conclusion: Interventions for enhancing functional ability focused primarily on the ability to meet basic needs. We identified the need for health-related interventions in rural and remote areas to consider all five functional ability domains as outcomes, particularly to strengthen the psychosocial wellbeing of older people and enhance their sense of purpose through their contributions to society.

Original languageEnglish
Article number827
JournalBMC Geriatrics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022


  • Ageing
  • Functional ability
  • Healthy ageing
  • Interventions
  • Rural and remote
  • Scoping review

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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