Anticipating the next move: Comparing mid-older adult master athletes and chess players on their expectations regarding aging


Master athletes are often touted as the "gold standard" of healthy aging; however, there is a paucity of research concerning Master athletes and their expectations regarding biopsychosocial facets of the aging process. Positive expectations of aging have been associated with engaging in preventative health behaviours and lifespan longevity, and while previous research has suggested that Master athletes may actively resist negative age-stereotypes, no research has quantified and compared their expectations of aging. The present study investigated expectations regarding aging (via the 12-item Expectations Regarding Aging survey; ERA-12; Sarkisian et al., 2005) of Master athletes (n=103) and mid-older adult chess players (n=42) aged 50 years and greater. Results revealed that Master athletes had significantly better expectations of aging compared to those of chess players (overall ERA-12, p=0.0001; physical expectations, p=0.001; psychosocial expectations, p=0.001; cognitive expectations, p=0.0001). Furthermore, Master athletes engaged in significantly more healthy behaviours compared to chess players (e.g., more physically active, sexually active, less sedentary). Age split analyses of variance between middle age (50-64 years) and older age (65+ years) additionally revealed that both middle and older aged Master athletes had significantly better ERA-12 scores compared to middle and older chess players (p<0.05). These findings suggest that middle and older adults regularly participating in competitive physical sport have more positive expectations of the aging process than those engaging in cognitive-based competition. Considering the potential health outcomes outlined by previous literature, promotion of sport for facilitating positive expectations and healthy aging in mid-older adults warrants further research attention.