This project is investigating people’s experiences of being physically active in older age. It is also examining how physically active older adults are perceived by other people.
Like much of the population, many older adults live inactive lifestyles and this can have negative consequences for their health and wellbeing. Through this research we are learning “what works” from a group of older adults who are engaged in regular physical activity.
By listening to their stories about moving, we are understanding how and why – at different points in their life – they have been able to deal with the barriers and challenges to being active that we often face. We are also gaining insight into the role that they believe physical activity plays in ageing well.
A second aim of this project is to investigate how physically active older adults are perceived by others. We live in a youth orientated culture where growing older is often seen only as a period of physical decline. This can lead to stereotyping and assumptions being made about what behaviours are and are not appropriate for people as they age.
Physically active older adults can challenge stereotypes of ageing and broaden some of these assumptions, but only if their stories are engaged with by the listener. This is the focus in the second part of the project.
We are using a range of qualitative methods including life history interviews, photography, film and focus groups. Example images from this project are shown opposite and full exhibitions will be taking place around Cornwall over the next 12 months.
The findings of this research have relevance for policy and practise within the realm of healthy ageing and intergenerational solidarity. To enhance the impact of this research, we are working closely with our Advisory Board which includes representatives from AgeUK, Cornwall Sport Partnerships, the Centre for Narrative Research (University of East London), ESRC Centre for Sport, Leisure and Tourism Research (University of Exeter), the participants of the research and an independent health policy advisor.
This research is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and the Primary Investigator is Cassandra Phoenix. The project is also featured on the European Year for Active Ageing’s website here