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Exploring Physical Activity Patterns and Role Models of Aging among Older Persons

Sean Horton -SRG 2010



S port involvement in Canada drops precipitously as we age. While two-thirds of Canadians under 20 are active participants in sport, by the age of 40 these numbers have fallen by half, and by the age of 60 participation rates have fallen by a full 60% (Bloom, Grant, & Watt, 2005). An important barrier to seniors’ participation in sport and physical activity is prevailing cultural attitudes and stereotypes, which in North America tend to be predominantly negative towards seniors (Levy & Banaji, 2002). The prevalence of these negative stereotypes often work to prevent older adults from engaging in exercise (O’Brien Cousins, 2003). The objectives of this project are to examine the importance of role models for older adults and how they might counter negative aging stereotypes. In particular, we are investigating three specific and related areas:

  • The relevance of role models and the extent to which they vary with age and activity level.
  • Whether masters athletes can serve as viable role models to decrease barriers to participation in sport and physical activity.
  • To what extent participants use predominantly prevention versus promotion orientations (i.e., upward or downward social comparisons) and how that may differ depending on age and activity level .

This research program is utilizing in-depth qualitative interviews to explore participants’ role models of aging. We are currently interviewing individuals across a wide age spectrum (60 years of age and older), divided into three separate groups based upon degree of exercise involvement: masters athletes, active, and sedentary individuals. Ultimately, this project will provide valuable insight into role models of the aging process, and the extent to which they can decrease barriers to participation in sport and physical activity

SIRC is funded by Canadian Heritage