The 1996 Leisure Research Symposium: Implications for Practice

Article excerpt

The 1996 Leisure Research Symposium (LRS), held during NRPA's October Congress in Kansas City, provided a forum for educators, practitioners, and students from the United States, Canada and other countries to learn about and discuss current research on leisure, recreation, parks, and tourism. A total of 82 abstracts were accepted by ses sion coordinators and reviewers for presentation within 10 different topical sessions, including outdoor recreation research, aspects of leisure over the lifespan, leisure research and the humanities, research on curriculum and professional preparation, psychological/ social psychological aspects of leisure behavior, management of leisure programs and services, tourism and travel, programs and services for special populations, sociological aspects of leisure, and methodology issues in leisure research. In support of the increasing interest in thematic study of research issues, a special session on multicultural issues and diverse populations was also held, as were two brown bag sessions that focused on innovative teaching methods and using the internet for leisure research.

Opening Session

The theme for the opening session of the 1996 LRS was The Future of Leisure. Keynote speakers were William Harper of Purdue University and Stephen Erickson of Pomona College. Harper's paper, "Making leisure work," and Erickson's analysis of "Entertainment, emptiness and the future of leisure" found common ground - along with some potentially pessimistic predictions - with respect to the negative effects technological advances hold for life-enriching (as opposed to diversionary) leisure. As Harper put it, "Up to a point, technology is wonderfully useful. But...when it results in separating and therefore trivializing both work and leisure, it should be refused; when it standardizes and oversimplifies and homogenizes and produces a onesize-fits-all culture, it should be refused."

These issues and others (filling extended retirement years with life-enriching activities, the needs of marginalized populations, the appropriate roles for leisure professionals to assume in the coming millennium) were also voiced in a reaction panel chaired by Karla Henderson and comprised of Karen Fox, Don McLean and Charles Sylvester. The opening session, which was underwritten by SPRE and the Academy of Leisure Sciences, also featured a series of small group discussions co-chaired by faculty and graduate students from a number of universities in the U.S. and Canada.

Topical Sessions

Abstracts of all research papers presented at the 1996 LRS are published in the book, "Abstracts from the 1996 Symposium on Leisure Research, NRPA, Kansas City." Below, some of the papers abstracted in that volume and relevant for recreation and leisure practice are discussed.

Social trends often influence research in various disciplines and leisure is no exception. The growing concern for what is typically called youth at risk was reflected in the leisure across the lifespan session, where five of the eight papers presented focused on youth. The paper by Witt, Scott and Baker considered differences among groups of youth who were distinguished from one another based on their degree of risk and the protective factors present in their lives. The authors encouraged the use of recreation programming to provide positive role models and mentoring, and prosocial activities.

Other papers on aging and leisure noted that stereotypes about the aging process may not be congruent with the actual barriers to participation experienced by older adults. Wilson pointed out that younger people who make leisure and recreation programming and resource allocation decisions may not be fully aware of the reality of daily life for older adults.

The session on sociological aspects of leisure also developed and reinforced the theme that leisure may occur in a variety of settings of public and private life beyond traditional, managed agency settings. …