The normalization of sport for older people?

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)
8 Downloads (Pure)


Opportunities for older adults in Western countries, particularly women, to participate in physically demanding, competitive sports have increased since the 1960s. Now, coinciding with the neoliberal shift in social policy, older adults live at a time when physical activity is highly encouraged through 'healthy or active ageing' discourses in media, policy policies and the sport/exercise sciences. This study sought to understand how 63 Masters athletes (aged 60 and over) explain their participation in sport and, in particular, the extent to which they use neoliberal language of personal moral responsibility and economic efficiency to explain their own participation and the non-participation of older adults in sport. While degrees of moral talk were evident in the older athlete responses, in almost all cases, non-participation in sport was seen as irrational and in need of explanation. Overall, our findings suggest that older people?s participation in sport has been, or at least is in the process of being, normalized among participants in Masters sport. We discuss how this changing idea about sport and ageing might reshape social policy, as well as social relationships, between older people and the state and between different groups of older people.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)253-272
Number of pages20
JournalAnnals of leisure research
Issue number3
Early online dateDec 2016
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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