Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

The Longitudinal Association between Playfulness and Resilience in Older Women Engaged in the Red Hat Society

Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

The Longitudinal Association between Playfulness and Resilience in Older Women Engaged in the Red Hat Society

Article excerpt

Resilience is defined as the ability to bounce back from adversity, risk, and loss (Ong, Bergeman, & Boker, 2009; Smith et al., 2008; Tugade & Fredrickson, 2004) and is viewed as an outcome of positive development across the life span (Strurgeon & Zautra, 2010). Fredrickson's (2001) Broaden-and-Build Theory provides a comprehensive explanation for this growth process: positive emotions are believed to broaden an individual's momentary thought-action repertoire, which allows for flexible attention and behaviors (Tugade, Fredrickson, & Barrett, 2004), and builds enduring resources over time (Fredrickson, 2000; 2006). When developing the Broaden-and-Build Theory, Fredrickson (2003; 2005) used playfulness scales to explore the link between positive emotions, playfulness and an individual's retention of mental and physical resources. The findings from Fredrickson et al.'s recent studies (e.g., Conway, Tugade, Catalino, & Fredrickson, 2013; Fredrickson, 2013b; Vacharkulksemsuk & Fredrickson, 2013) suggest that positive resources (e.g., physical health and psychological well-being) can be built when individuals broaden their minds by experiencing playfulness. However, Mitas, Qian, Yarnal, and Kerstetter (2011) have provided the only leisure research indicating that playfulness may build resilience among older women, notably in the leisure-based context of The Red Hat Society, thus supporting the Broaden-and-Build Theory. While their research finding provided preliminary evidence to support this theory in the leisure-based context, the authors called for a longitudinal study to explore how the broaden and build process operates over time.

Leisure researchers have examined the association between positive emotions and the building of personal resources among older adults (Mitas et al., 2011). Indeed, leisure activity is an engaging experience that can provide older adults an opportunity to continue their personal growth and development (cf. Kleiber & Nimrod, 2009). However, few leisure researchers have examined this growth in an older population in a longitudinal study. Therefore, the purpose of this study, guided by the Broaden-and-Build Theory, was to examine the longitudinal effects of playfulness on resilience, in a sample of older women in The Red Hat Society (RHS). The RHS is an international, leisure-focused social organization of women over age 50. Founded by Sue Ellen Cooper in 1998, the society provides an opportunity for older women to socialize, play, and act "silly" (http://www.redhatsociety.com/) for fun and relaxation. Specifically, we collected longitudinal data for one year from a number of women in The Red Hat Society to determine if their playfulness (a) contributes to their resilience (within-person change) and (b) if their personal characteristics (e.g., age, education, marital status, and health) influence the process (between-person differences).

Playfulness in Older Age

Playfulness is an individual difference characteristic that positively influences individuals' leisure experiences (Barnett, 2011). Lieberman (1977) indicated that playfulness in childhood has five behavioral dimensions: physical spontaneity, cognitive spontaneity, social spontaneity, manifest joy, and a sense of humor (Barnett, 1990; Schaefer & Greenberg, 1997). Other researchers have suggested comparable dimensions in adult playfulness: creativity, curiosity, pleasure, and a sense of humor (Guitard, Ferland, & Dutil, 2005), and fun (Glynn & Webster, 1992). Basically, playfulness is the predisposition to engage in play (Barnett, 2007).

Playfulness also entails situational or state-based stimuli. The function of playfulness may change across the life span and life stages (Qian & Yarnal, 2011; Yarnal & Qian, 2011). That is, playfulness may be influenced by demographic factors such as age and gender (Proyer & Ruch, 2011; Qian & Yarnal, 2011), environmental enrichment (Yarnal, Chick, & Dattilo, 2006), and social connections (Caldwell & Witt, 2011). …

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