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Behaviors, Reasons, and Outcomes Perceived by Senior Games Participants

Karla A. Henderson, Jonathan Casper, Beth E. Wilson, Liana Dern

Abstract


The population of aging adults in America is growing. An important dimension of successful aging is maintaining active engagement with life. This engagement can take many forms, but is frequently
associated with physical and social activity. Community recreation programs aimed at promoting physical and social activity can facilitate successful aging and good health for older adults in their communities. One model that has promoted physical and social health is North Carolina Senior Games (NCSG, 2011). The vision of NCSG since its inception in 1983 is to create a year-round health promotion and education program for North Carolinians using a holistic approach in communities emphasizing staying fit and enjoying the company of friends, family, spectators, and volunteers. The purpose of this study is to describe the behaviors, importance of the reasons for participation, and perceived outcomes associated with NCSG. A random sample of registered local games participants from 2010 were invited to participate in this study with a response rate of 36% (N = 408). Respondents are involved primarily in sports activities although a number of individuals also participated in other activities offered by NCSG (i.e., sports, Silver Arts, SilverStriders, Senior Games Clinics and Workshops, SilverLiners, Senior Games volunteer). Over three-fourths of the respondents indicated that training and preparation for participation in NCSG is part of their regular weekly activity. In addition, two-thirds indicate that their participation in NCSG had motivated them to be more physically active, and a similar number indicate that their participation in NCSG motivates them to be more socially active. The important reasons for NCSG participation were highest for fun, health, social opportunities, competition, creative expression, and doctor recommendation. The perceived outcomes associated with NCSG are changes in self-esteem, general health, and physiology. Many respondents perceive that NCSG makes a contribution to their physical and social engagement in their communities. Community park and recreation staff working with older adults in communities either through local recreation centers or a program like Senior Games may want to focus on findings from this study such as the emphasis on fun. Offering a variety of physical and social activities to choose may also complement opportunities for fun. Further, the nature of a community program related to year-round participation is also important. Structured programs that can provide encouragement and reinforcement from the cohorts themselves seem important to consider. Facilitating older adults in assessing their own community needs and aiding involvement in planning programs will likely appeal to social and physical needs and interests.

Keywords


Arts; community; recreation; outcomes; physical activity; sports

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