The Meaning of Sports Participation in the Lives of Middle-aged and Older Women

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At present, the knowledge base about the participation of middle-aged and older women in sport, particularly from the perspectives of women themselves, is embryonic. This situation exists at a time where the number of older women is increasing, new ways of 'doing' older age are emerging and traditional understandings of what it means to be a middle-aged or older woman are being challenged. Much more interdisciplinary research with a biographical dimension is needed in order to build a more complex picture of the role that sports participation plays in women's lives and how their participation resists and reinforces cultural understandings of sport, ageing, and gender. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to combine and analyse data that has been collected from two different studies (i.e., Dionigi, 2010 and Litchfield, 2011a). Amongst other things, these past studies have examined the meaning of sport in the lives of women within the context of broader discourses of sport, ageing, gender, and/or sexuality. Specifically, the current study compares and contrasts indepth, case study interview data from women (aged 32-52 years) who belonged to a recreational field hockey club (Litchfield, 2011a) with interview data from women (aged 55-90 years) who were competitors of Masters Games events (Dionigi, 2010). The combined data was thematically analysed within a poststructural framework and three common themes were identified: competition; community and inclusiveness; and identity management. The findings show that regardless of age, past experiences, or type of sport (individual versus team), these women share similar meanings of sport. These meanings shape (and are shaped by) discourses of sport, ageing, and feminism through their involvement in sport. In particular, notions of resistance, empowerment, identity, and a sense of community were found to be important in terms of understanding the role sport plays in these women's lives.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21-36
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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