Critical Perspectives on Physical Activity, Sport, Play and Leisure in Later Life
Rylee A. Dionigi, Charles Sturt University, Australia & Julie Son, University of Idaho, USA
In 1969, at the General Assembly of the United Nations, the social, economic and cultural concerns of the World’s Aging Population were brought to our attention (Pike, 2011). Since then, the idea that we should keep older people active and productive, to address the problem of rising numbers of people aged 60 and older, has been legitimised in the West (Katz, 2000; Pike, 2011; Tulle, 2008). This ongoing concern for ‘population aging’ has implications for leisure practices, experiences and services.
When the aging population is constructed as a problem, older adults (and the aging body) are positioned as an economic and social threat. Therefore, encouraging older people to remain physically active (particularly through leisure) has become part of the solution to these problems (Moody, 2001; Neilson, 2006; Pike, 2010; Tulle, 2008). In this climate, older people are expected (or made to feel obligated) to take responsibility for their health by making certain leisure and lifestyle choices, and a moral viewpoint is constructed through polar opposite conceptions of good and bad ways to age (Pike, 2011). This simplistic view of aging is reinforced by experts (and private businesses) in physical activity and aging contexts, as well as in health-related policy documents and media reports, who/that offer recommendations (and paid-for services) on how to age well (Mendes, 2013; Pike, 2011).
Older adults’ leisure choices and the types of leisure services made available to this cohort are influenced by these ideologies. At the same time, discourses that promote active and productive aging as the older individual’s responsibility can be used to justify cuts in welfare support and health care programs for the aged, as evident in the USA and UK (Dillaway & Byrnes, 2009; Pike, 2011, respectively).
There is a need for aging, physical activity and health-related policy-makers, practitioners and scholars to open up multiple and inclusive ways of aging or, as Pike puts it, “increase the ‘acceptable’ ways to grow old” (2011, p. 221). Leisure, as a discipline and as a practice in all its myriad forms – sport, physical activity, play, music, art, and relaxation (to mention a few), has a key role to play in addressing this need.
While participation in physically active leisure (and health promotion in general) is a laudable goal, caution is necessary due to the many personal, cultural and historical factors affecting older adults’ inclusion. Increases in leisure programs that encourage physical activity in later life must be matched with welfare/State supported aged care programs. More critical leisure research is needed that starts from the perspectives of a diverse range of older adults, rather than an analysis of how older people’s leisure meets current neoliberal policy definitions of active and productive aging (Aberdeen & Bye, 2013; Asquith, 2009). More attention is needed on all forms of leisure in later life, not just those leisure activities (primarily physical activity) that are deemed productive or cost-effective to health service policy-makers and other public officials.
As a key force in our lives, leisure deserves particular attention for its contribution to experiences and meanings of aging at the individual and cultural levels. Likewise, understanding the role of age and aging on leisure spaces, places and experiences has received limited attention in the literature. Critical perspectives on leisure and aging are needed to inform leisure practice, policy and services for older adults.
We invite researchers to contribute theoretical, methodological or empirical papers related to the theme of this special issue. Key topics on leisure and aging might include:
- What meanings of aging are derived through older adults’ leisure experiences? Emphasis can be on the significance of passive activities and/or solitude in later life, as well as the meanings derived from physically and/or socially active pursuits.
- What theories and concepts are most relevant in relation to leisure in later life? Do some theories seem to resonate in one context, but not others – say, for sport and aging, but not for music and aging?
- What are critical turning points of aging/the life stage associated with leisure?
- How does leisure reproduce positive and/or negative stereotypes associated with older adults?
- How can leisure empower older adults? How might leisure create or maintain identity in later life?
- Does age and the experience of aging limit leisure and/or open up new opportunities for leisure?
- How can older adults’ meanings and experiences of leisure (regardless of the type of leisure) inform aging, physical activity and/or health-related policy-makers and/or practitioners?
We are open to empirical research, policy papers, state of knowledge (reviews), as well as theoretical and methodological pieces, with a particular focus on the aged 50 and older group.
Important Dates for Authors:
Submission of Abstracts: Please send proposed paper title and an abstract of no more than 300 words to the guest editors, Rylee Dionigi (email@example.com) and Julie Son (firstname.lastname@example.org) no later than 15th May 2015. We will advise the outcome no later than 10th June 2015.
Submission of Full Paper: 15th October 2015
Publication: Fourth issue of 2016