Factors Associated with the Extent of Recreation and Social Participation at Older Adult Centres in Ontario
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Introduction: Social participation is considered essential for successful aging and has been shown to reduce social isolation and loneliness and improve health and well-being. Older adult centres (OACs) provide recreation and social activities tailored to seniors, as well as opportunities to volunteer and socialize. Although widely available, the extent to which older adults use OACs, relative to other community organizations, to meet these needs is unknown. Purpose: The present study examined factors associated with recreation and social participation at OACs in Ontario. By examining users and non-users, patterns of centre use, transportation, and trips outside the home, this study aimed to better understand the extent to which OACs represent the primary venue for recreation and social activities among participating seniors. Methods: This study employed secondary analysis of two datasets from the Older Adults’ Centre Association of Ontario. The Building Bridges to Tomorrow Project (BBTP) consisted of 2,239 users and 540 non-users from 24 OACs. Through guided interviews, users answered questions on attendance, participation and satisfaction with recreation programs, as well as background and health information. Non-users answered the same background questions, as well as ones on recreation needs, and perceptions of and interest in OACs. The Multi-Centre Guided Evaluation Project (MC-GEP) involved 295 centre users from 12 OACs who completed a two- week travel diary documenting all out-of-home travel. Participants also completed questionnaires and scales to assess balance confidence, life-space mobility, loneliness, and social support. BBTP Results: OAC users were older, less educated, fully retired, and rated their overall health and level of physical activity higher. People who volunteered in the community were less likely to be OAC users. Among centre users, those living alone and in more urban locations were more likely to attend the centre daily, while those using other recreation facilities were less likely to do so. More intense participation was found for women, those who lived alone, those with less education, low-income seniors and those living in urban areas close to the centre. Among non- users, OACs were frequently described as central meeting places in the community that promote social participation; however, ageist stereotypes also emerged with respect to who attends these facilities and the types of activities that are available. MC-GEP Results: Two-thirds of the sample reported the centre was their primary place for recreation, leisure and social activities. Having post-secondary education, being a current driver, and attending other community centres significantly reduced the odds of reporting the centre as a primary place, while loneliness increased the odds of doing so. The diaries showed that 27% of trips away from home included a stop at the centre; post-secondary education and participation at other community centres significantly reduced the extent to which the centre was a focal point, while loneliness increased it. Conclusions: Ageist attitudes were prevalent among non-users and centres should consider innovative and cost-effective ways they can combat these images through through community partnerships and updated marketing and promotional efforts. The current study suggested that nearly a quater of centre users experienced high levels of loneliness; however, more research is needed to explore how the centre environment and ongoing participation impacts loneliness. Additionally, three-quarters of centre users attended other community-based facilities, often to access programs or facilities not available at their centre. Despite this, the local OAC was still their primary place for recreation and social activities, especially for those without post- secondary education, those who experienced loneliness, and those at greater risk for social isolation (e.g., living in rural areas, non-drivers). Further research using standardized measures is needed to empirically demonstrate benefits of OAC participation.
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Christine Sheppard (2019). Factors Associated with the Extent of Recreation and Social Participation at Older Adult Centres in Ontario. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/14757