Exploring older women's experiences of sport participation

  • Sean Horton University of Windsor
  • Patricia Weir University of Windsor
  • Joseph Baker York University
  • Michael Gard University of Queensland
  • Rylee Dionigi Charles Sturt University

Abstract

In the summer of 2015, Canada crossed a key demographic threshold, as there are now more of its citizens 65 years and older than under 15. This mirrors the demographic trends globally; by 2050 the number of adults over the age of 60 in developed countries will nearly double those under 15. Encouraging sport participation is one method governments have utilized in the attempt to facilitate a more active senior citizenry. Regardless of whether governmental influence is actually having an effect on participation rates, it is clear that sporting events for older adults are growing in popularity. A notable example of this is the World Masters Games (WMG) which began in 1985 with 5,000 athletes; it is now the largest sporting event in the world with 30,000 participating in the quadrennial event. To date, investigations of seniors' participation in sport has focused primarily on physiological variables, with fewer investigations devoted to psycho-social outcomes. Of these, only two have examined older women's experience in sport. This study attempted to address this shortfall with a qualitative investigation of older women competing in the 2013 WMG. Interviews were conducted with 16 women ranging from 70 to 86 years of age. Three main themes emerged from the analysis: Multi-faceted benefits, Overcoming barriers, and Social roles. There is unquestionably complexity inherent to older females' sport participation, however, by resisting gender and aging stereotypes the women in our study and others like them may help to change perceptions of what it means to grow old.