Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Innovation among Older Adults with Chronic Health Conditions

Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Innovation among Older Adults with Chronic Health Conditions

Article excerpt

With lower mortality rates and longer life expectancy, more people are living with chronic health conditions that affect their quality of life (Schultz & Kopec, 2003; Statistics Canada, 1999). Therefore, it is critically important to determine ways to help older adults to successfully adapt to the challenges associated with living with a chronic health condition. Since active engagement in personally meaningful activities is central to physical and psychological well-being in later life (McPherson, 2004; Stöbert, Dosman & Keating, 2006), one of the most significant challenges is facing the constraints that restrict preferred activities.

The purpose of this study was to examine older adults' response to activity restrictions or constraints with an eye toward understanding the role of innovation in adapting to disability and loss in later life. The authors were specifically interested in new activities following the onset of a physical health condition, and focused on the patterns, meanings and perceived benefits of innovation in leisure activities as an integral part of the process of coping with declining physical health. Continuity theory (Atchley, 1989, 1993, 1999) and selective optimization with compensation (Baltes & Baltes, 1990) are two aging theories that help explain adaptation to aging-related losses. Innovation theory (Nimrod & Kleiber, 2007) provides an alternate perspective on the role of new activities in aging. This article starts by reviewing current aging theories, including innovation theory (Nimrod & Kleiber, 2007), which provided the primary theoretical framework for this investigation, and continues by presenting results from in-depth interviews with older adults with chronic health conditions. It ends by discussing: the contribution of the findings to confirming and refining innovation theory, the interconnections between the three theories and the unique contribution of innovation theory to understanding the role of new leisure-related activities in the process of adapting to a chronic health condition.

Literature Review

Three aging theories form the theoretical foundation of how the authors tried to understand the meanings and benefits of innovation in activity patterns when living with a chronic health condition: continuity theory, selective optimization with compensation, and innovation theory. Each is briefly described below and studies that have examined changes and continuity in leisure-related activity patterns and meanings from these theoretical perspectives are presented.

Continuity Theory, SOC, and Leisure

Continuity and change in leisure activity patterns play an important role in the adjustment processes associated with aging (Kelly, 1993; Kleiber, 1999). In offering an explanation for continuity's importance for well-being in later life, Atchley (1989, 1993, 1999) proposed continuity theory. Continuity theory posits that continuity is a primary adaptive strategy for dealing with changes associated with normal aging. Atchley argued that individuals tend to maintain continuity of psychological and social patterns adopted during their life course (e.g., attitudes, opinions, personality, preferences, and behavior) by developing stable activity patterns that will help them to preserve earlier ones (Agahi, Ahacic & Parker, 2006; Finchum & Weber, 2000). Atchley (1993) distinguishes between internal and external continuity, with internal continuity referring to continuity in one's psychological characteristics and self-perceptions and external continuity reflected in maintenance of roles and activities. Several scholars (e.g., Burnett-Wolle & Godbey, 2007; Nimrod, 2007) had noted that much of the leisure research has focused on studies of changes and continuity in leisure activity patterns (external continuity) and less attention has been given to examining the role of leisure in preserving internal continuity.

There is some preliminary support, nonetheless, for the centrality of continuity through leisure in studies involving adults who have experienced a traumatic injury (Kleiber, Brock, Lee, Dattilo & Caldwell, 1995), live with a chronic illness (Hutchinson, Loy, Kleiber, & Dattilo, 2003) or are adapting to age-related changes (e. …

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