Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Gender Differences in Meaningful Leisure Following Major Later Life Events

Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Gender Differences in Meaningful Leisure Following Major Later Life Events

Article excerpt

In Spain, as in most other developed countries, older adults constitute the most rapidly growing part of the population (Special Eurobarometer, 2012). Extended lifespans are drawing increased attention to factors affecting the quality of later life, among which leisure plays a prominent role. In fact, for older Spanish adults, leisure has become one of the aspects of everyday life with a bigger impact on their well-being and quality of life than just about anything else (del Barrio Truchado & Sancho Castillejo, 2012; Fernández-Mayoralas et al., 2011).

More generally, there is ample correlational evidence that leisure activity plays a significant role in the successful aging of older adults (Adams, Leibbrandt, & Moon, 2011; FernándezBallesteros et al., 2010; Rodríguez, Fernández, & Rojo, 2012). Leisure provides older adults with opportunities for maintaining physical and mental health (McAuley, Blissmer, Marquez, Jerome, Kramer, & Katula, 2000; Fernández Mayoralas et al., 2011), developing cognitive skills, improving self-esteem (Wahrendorf, Ribet, Zins, & Siegrist, 2008), and fostering self-expression and creativity (Kleiber & Nimrod, 2008; Nimrod, 2007). It also triggers positive emotional states associated with perceived freedom, competence, and social relatedness (Searle, Mahon, Iso-Ahola, Sdrolias, & van Dyck, 1995; Nimrod & Adoni, 2006; Van der Pas & Koopman-Boyden, 2010). But attachment to the activity as a source of meaning-rather than simply as a relaxing time filler-may be necessary to generat most of these benefits.

Our idea of "meaningful leisure" refers comprehensively to those forms of leisure (repertoires and activities) that work as sources of satisfaction and perceived well-being. Meaningful leisure's value is explained by their experiential dimensions, that is, by the high personal significance that they have for the protagonist and their ability to enrich one's social world through the exercise of autonomy, freedom, and creativity (See Cuenca, Kleiber, Monteagudo, Linde, & Jaumot-Pascual, 2014; Monteagudo, Kleiber, Cuenca, Bayón & Linde, 2014). While there are various ways in which leisure meanings have been examined, we chose to look at them combining a synchronic perspective (focused on the current repertoire of our interviewees) with a diachronic one that draws attention to their "leisure paths." With this concept of meaningful leisure we designate the set of leisure experiences enjoyed by one person along his or her life, as forming a particular personal history, socially conditioned, marked by changes and continuity, and shaped by opportunities and constraints (Monteagudo & Cuenca, 2012).

Since such meaningful leisure is a changing and dynamic phenomenon that accompanies a person throughout life (Iso-Ahola, Jackson, & Dunn, 1994; Kleiber, 1999; Monteagudo & Cuenca, 2012), the study of meaning in older people's leisure will inevitably address changes over time and emergence in response to important life events. Leisure researchers have paid considerable attention to the subject of life events-negative and positive, predictable and unpredictable-especially as leisure activities are used in the course of coping with and adjustment to those events (Hutchinson, 2007; Iwasaki & Mannell, 2000; Jackson, 2005; Kleiber, 1999; Kleiber, Hutchinson & Williams, 2002). In later life, retirement and the loss of a spouse are among the most impactful events.

The changes in leisure accompanying such events are also significant sources of meaning and narrative reconstruction, however serious the activities are in themselves (Dupuis & Smale, 1995; Janke, Nimrod, & Kleiber, 2008; Kleiber et al., 2002), and need to be taken into account if the role of leisure in older adulthood is to be fully addressed. However, it is important to recognize the extent to which the life events that affect leisure are gendered. When it comes to major life events in the transition to older adulthood, the relinquishing of work roles and the loss of a spouse are different experiences for men and women (Hurd, 1999; Lee & Bakk, 2001) around the world: the way these changes affect the meanings and benefits of leisure must be considered separately for each. …

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