The elderly population, especially those with cancer coupled with low health literacy, is at high risk for poor health outcomes. Telephone counseling has been shown to be effective in improving health behaviors among other populations, but it has not been studied for older adult cancer survivors. The purpose of this mixed methods study was to examine the effectiveness of telephone counseling on physical activity among older adult cancer survivors (n=50). The relationship between health literacy level and perceived changes in physical activity was assessed. Based on existing literature and Orem's Theory of Self-care, the following hypotheses were tested: H1: Telephone counseling intervention will improve physical activity of elderly cancer survivors. H2: Among older adult cancer survivors, there will be an inverse relationship between health literacy level and improved physical activity. A one-way paired t-test was used to test pre- and post-intervention activity levels. The relationship between level of health literacy and improved physical activity was evaluated using Spearman's rho. Elderly cancer survivors' perceptions of the challenges, barriers, and beneficial elements of being physically active were assessed using content analysis. One-way paired t-test revealed no significant improvement in older cancer survivors' physical activity level after telephone counseling. Spearman's rho also revealed no significant improvement in the physical activity levels of older cancer survivors with limited health literacy. Although the quantitative data analysis did not reach significance, the open-ended questions revealed that the telephone counseling was beneficial. It provided education and information about physical activity in cancer recovery, provided motivation and promoted accountability, self-encouragement and sustainability.

Date of publication

Fall 12-4-2012

Document Type




Persistent identifier


Included in

Nursing Commons