Leisure Behaviors and Perceptions When Mid-Life Death is Imminent: A Case Report


  • Gaylene Carpenter
  • Susan Murray


leisure perceptions, life perceptions, mid-life development, palliative care, resiliency, thanantology


This case report concentrates inquiry on the leisure perceptions and behaviors of a leisure service professional in her prime diagnosed with a terminal illness. Dottie (pseudonym) was a participant in longevity research with middle-aged adults about their leisure and life perceptions. Data from this research was combined with Dottie’s narrative self-report in a book about cancer survivors where she integrated leisure with health issues by telling her story. In combining these sources of data, three distinct time periods were identified which corresponded with the last three years of Dottie’s life. These were year of not knowing, year of knowing, and year of resurgence. During these time periods, Dottie’s leisure perceptions showed change and stability from year to year. Though she maintained consistent, positive perceptions in both her attitude toward leisure and the extent to which she valued leisure, she valued leisure less in the year she died. She also perceived freedom in leisure and reported her highest score the year her disease was diagnosed. In rating her life experiences over time, Dottie indicated they were more positive than negative. In the year that she perceived her life experiences to be the most negative, her perceptions regarding leisure were the most positive. Dottie also sought out and participated in new activities during her free time. She reported selffulfillment, and fun and enjoyment out of life, as her most important wants out of life. The findings of the study support the importance of leisure during times of wellness and ill health. In addition, positive relationships between health, death, and leisure, as noted by investigating Dottie’s midlife death, can be seen as opportunities for growth and renewal of identity and personal meaning for others in similar situations. As such, the study provides support for park and recreation administrators and program specialists who want to play a role in meeting leisure needs and interests of persons in the process of dying as well as living. Implications for intervention focus on how recreationists and therapeutic recreation specialists may self-mediate healing through leisure for middle-aged adults with a terminal illness.





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