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Staying Connected: Recommendations by Older Adults Concerning Community Leisure Service Delivery

Amy E. Lorek, John Dattilo, Jacqueline Mogle, Sara Freed, Margaret Frysinger, Shang-Ti Chen

Abstract


Communities have long recognized their role in supporting and assisting older adults by offering information and services to meet their needs and address challenges of aging (United States Older Americans Act of 1965). Involving community members in the research process, often referred to as community-engaged research, is a valuable strategy for improving health (Clinical and Translational Science Awards Consortium, 2011). Recently, our research team began a project to learn how to promote engagement of local older adults in places where they usually congregate (Dattilo et al., 2015; Dattilo, Mogle, Lorek, Freed, & Frysinger, in press). We wanted to understand older adult health concerns and develop programs that assist them in maintaining health and pursuing leisure. During focus groups and a public meeting conducted during 2014 and 2015 in rural Pennsylvania, the research team listened and learned about concerns related to challenges of aging and the pursuit of healthy lifestyles that embrace leisure. Through this community-engaged process, the team gained insight into ways to improve service delivery and develop effective programs. The purpose of this paper is to present a synthesis of recommendations made by this group of older adults for developing and providing age-appropriate resources and leisure services across multiple community settings. Participants requested informational resources and identified ways they wanted to have this information delivered; such information might assist service providers in identifying what and how to provide information to community elders. They described services of interest as they specified desirable program content, program site characteristics, and the social culture when they attend leisure programs. Data were analyzed across categories resulting in identification of themes that provided perspective on overarching participant concerns and orientations. Based on these results, leisure service providers are encouraged to help older adults’ access resources and services and demonstrate flexibility when attempting to facilitate such access. Once participants engage in programs it may be valuable to promote and support social connections as they experience enjoyment and meaning. Services that provide opportunities for self development that facilitate learning and growth were perceived as important. Overall, the impact of participating in leisure services may result in valued contributions that older adults make to the health and well-being of themselves and others. Information reported in this paper is specifically intended for leisure service providers to consider when attempting responding to the desires and needs of older adults that reside within their community.

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Keywords


Aging; Focus Group Discussions; Leisure; Senior Centers; Community-Engaged Research

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.18666/JPRA-2017-V35-I3-7682

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