Seniors in sport: The experiences and practices of older World Masters Games competitors

Rylee Dionigi, Sean Horton, Joseph Baker

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Abstract

This study aims to understand the views, practices and experiences of seniors who participate regularly in sport within the context of identity management and cultural notions of sport and aging. We conducted on-site interviews and observations of male and female World Masters Games competitors (aged 55 years and over). Participants were involved in a variety of sports (e.g., track and field, road running, swimming, cycling, tennis, weightlifting, squash, badminton). The stories and practices of older athletes illuminated the strategies they adopt to maintain sports performance (and an athletic identity) in the face of an aging body. Many participants invested in the competitive practices tied to mainstream sport, such as training, using the latest sports equipment, wearing athletic apparel and trying their hardest to win. The findings also highlighted participants' practices and perceived experiences that extend beyond the outcomes typically derived from general exercise, such as walking or gardening, particularly in regard to a sense of social connectedness and personal empowerment. Breaking a world record, winning a medal, gaining a new 'PB' (personal best time or distance) and/or pushing their bodies to the limit made participants feel valued, competent and proud. Through their talk and actions, older athletes simultaneously resist and reproduce conflicting discourses of sport and aging. Our study shows how sport can be used (unintentionally or deliberately) by older participants as a vehicle for resistance and conformity to dominant cultural ideals.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)55-68
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of sport and society
Volume1
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2010

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