Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Blogging into Retirement: Using Qualitative Online Research Methods to Understand Leisure among Baby Boomers

Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Blogging into Retirement: Using Qualitative Online Research Methods to Understand Leisure among Baby Boomers

Article excerpt


In 2000, McGuire asked, "What do we know about leisure and aging?," and then answered his own question by suggesting, "Not much," Now, 15 years later, a wider range of theories and methodologies are used to better understand leisure and aging. Considering methodological and technological advancements, combined with increased numbers of older adults using the Internet, we wanted to determine to what degree qualitative online research methods may help to answer McGuire's call for deeper thought and improved research into leisure and aging research, For example, one of the challenges mentioned by McGuire to advancing research into leisure and aging is the need for strong research teams and the lack of a critical mass of leisure and aging scholars at any one university. Similarly, he described the challenge inherent in studying complex human experiences. Qualitative online research can allow teams of researchers at different universities to work together to understand the complex experiences of participants as they unfold. Specifically we chose to use this method to explore the transition to retirement, which Nimrod and Janke (2012) have described as one of the major life transitions related to leisure in later life. In this article we describe how we utilized qualitative online research methods to explore the transition to retirement among babyboomers and discuss the challenges and opportunities that resulted from this type of data collection.

As we can expect large numbers of baby boomers to draw on leisure services in the coming years, it is becoming increasingly relevant to understand how they perceive and experience retirement. To do so, finding alternative means of collecting data, moving away from the traditional qualitative interview, may be beneficial. Indeed, Stebbins (2010) argued that traditional qualitative methods (e.g,, individual interviews, focus groups) are limiting when studying leisure activities because they are too labour intensive to address a broad range of data and because they limit the researcher to studying small samples of those who are geographically and temporally accessible. He suggested that Internet research could be used to reach a broader audience. Furthermore, Nimrod (2010, 2011) reported that seniors use the Internet to have fun (e.g., playing games, sharing stories) and older adults are increasingly using social networking sites (Lloyd, 2007). As such, we set out to better understand the transition to retirement among baby boomers through online qualitative research methods. This approach allowed us to study older adults who may not have otherwise been able to participate due to time, geography, or transportation constraints. This approach also allowed us to explore the experiences of participants in real time as they could describe their activities and thoughts as they happened rather than being limited to what they recalled at a scheduled time. Finally, this approach allowed us to explore the participants' affinity/preference for using online qualitative methods in order to improve future studies.

While the overall aim of this project was to understand leisure and the transition to retirement among baby boomers, a secondary goal was to explore the potential of online research methods with baby boomers. The purpose of this manuscript, therefore, is to describe our approach to online research methods and consider the benefits and drawbacks of using online research methods with the baby boom generation. Below, we present a brief review of the literature regarding baby boomers, retirement and leisure; baby boomer's use of the Internet; and an overview of online qualitative research methods.

Literature Review

Baby Boomers, Retirement, and Leisure

Several researchers have highlighted differences between babyboomers and their predecessors (Liechty & Genoe, 2013; Liechty, Yamal, & Kerstetter, 2012; Nazareth, 2007; Sperazza & Banerjee, 2010a, 2010b). …

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