Sport as social policy across the lifespan

R. A. Dionigi, Michael Gard, Sean Horton, Joseph Baker, Patricia Weir

Research output: Other contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


Introduction: Sport as social policy has reached a peculiar and somewhat paradoxical crossroads. Historically, sport has generally been seen as healthyfor young people but ill-advised for older people. However, in the context of the twenty-first century’s “obesity epidemic”, the rising “risk” of lifestyle diseases, and ageing populations, some scholars suggest that competitive and vigorous sports may not be the right kind of physical activity for youngpeople because, they argue, it is not something they will be able to keep doing in later life (e.g., Trost 2006). As a result, they argue that young peopleshould be introduced to moderate intensity “lifestyle” activities like walking and going to the gym, which will hopefully improve their health andprotect them from weight gain and ill health as they age. At the same time, enthusiasm for sport participation as a policy setting to help older peoplemaintain their independence and improve their general quality of life is growing (van Uffelen et al., 2015). Sport participation also appears to be on therise amongst older people and, as our research suggests, is becoming understood as a more “normal” part of the ageing process in Western countries(Dionigi et al., 2014). In this paper we offer examples of these rhetorical shifts and argue that, as ever, sport emerges as an endlessly flexible discursivepolicy resource. Methods: We conducted a critical analysis of sport, physical activity, and active ageing policy-related documents from 2002–2015,with particular focus on the Australian policy context. Results: Three intersecting and contradictory trends were identified in the relationship betweensport policy and public health regarding younger people and older people: the focus on moderate–vigorous “life-long” physical activities for youngpeople, the increase in public money promoting sport in schools, and the growing emphasis on sport for older people. Conclusion: Organised sport,and the idea that it could be put to premeditated social policy ends, were both born at a particular point in Western history. References: Dionigi, R.A.,Gard, M., Horton, S, Weir, P., & Baker, J. (2014). Sport as leisure for older adults: Critical reflections and recommendations. Paper presented at the14th Canadian Congress on Leisure Research: Our New Leisure Society, Halifax Nova Scotia, May 21–23, 2014. Trost, S. (2006). Public health andphysical education. In D. Kirk, D. Macdonald & M. O’Sullivan, (Eds.), Handbook of physical education (163–187). London: Sage. van Uffelen, J.G.Z.,Jenkin, C.R., Westerbeek, H.M., Biddle, S.J.H., & Eime, R.M. (2015). Active and healthy ageing through sport. Report prepared for the AustralianSports Commission. Victoria University, Institute of Sport, Exercise and Active Living (ISEAL).
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2016
EventWorld Congress on Active Ageing 2016: WCAA 2016 - Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, Melbourne, Australia
Duration: 28 Jun 201601 Jul 2016 (Conference website)


ConferenceWorld Congress on Active Ageing 2016
Abbreviated titlePeople, Policy and Practice
OtherIt gives me great pleasure to introduce to you the World Congress on Active Ageing (WCAA), a global event that will be hosted by Victoria University's Institute of Sport, Exercise and Active Living (ISEAL). This will be the 9th Congress held under the auspices of the International Coalition for Ageing and Physical Activity (ICAPA). In light of significantly increasing governmental focus on keeping their ageing populations more healthy and active, this conference will prove to be the largest gathering of experts and stakeholders in the field of Active Ageing ever assembled. We are anticipating international delegates will meet from more than 30 countries in July 2016 at the Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre and to that end we invite you to be part of this exciting event. To ensure the success of the Congress we are engaging government departments, partner Universities across Australia, Active Ageing stakeholders and the Melbourne Convention Bureau. It is these partnerships that will form the cornerstone of what we anticipate will be a benchmark World Congress on Active Ageing. I very much look forward to working with you, and to make the 9th World Congress on Active Ageing a tremendously successful event – for you and for all delegates and participants. On behalf of the organising committee Stuart Biddle Professor and Research Leader, Active Living & Public Health, Institute of Sport, Exercise & Active Living, Victoria University, Melbourne, Australia
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