How do older Masters athletes account for their performance preservation? A qualitative analysis

Rylee Dionigi, Sean Horton, Joseph Baker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

17 Citations (Scopus)
49 Downloads (Pure)


The purpose of this study was to examine how older people make sense of theircapacity to maintain sports performance. Performance maintenance is predominantlyexamined from a quantitative perspective, with little attention given to howpeople themselves account for it. We interviewed 44 competitors (23 females,21 males) from the 2009 Sydney World Masters Games (aged 56'90 years; mean=72years). The major themes were: 'Use it or lose it' (performance preservation requiredspecific 'training' and the continuation of general physical activity); 'Adapt'/'modify'(participants compensated for their decline in speed, strength and endurance sothey could continue competing in sport); 'It's in my genes' (participants attributedtheir 'family history' and/or innate 'determination' to performance maintenance);and 'I like to push myself' (participants valued improved performance, pushing theirbodies and winning which motivated them to continually train and compete). Thefindings are discussed within a framework of three key performance maintenancetheories: (a) preserved differentiation, (b) selective maintenance and (c) compensation.Although compensation and continued training are effective ways to counterdecline in later life, this study extends past research by showing how older athletestend to combine and/or generalise stable and unstable attributes of performancepreservation. In particular, this research highlights the importance individuals andWestern society place on self-responsibility for health, competition and performancemaintenance, which act as key motivating factors.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)297-319
Number of pages23
JournalAgeing and Society
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2013

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