Older Adults' Experiences of Community in Municipal Recreation Contexts: A Case Study of the Burlington Seniors' Centre
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In 2012, the first members of the baby boom cohort, those born between the years of 1946 and 1965, reached the age of 65 (Statistics Canada, 2012). The older adult population in Canada is expected to outnumber that of youth and adults and will compromise majority of the population in 2036. As the Canadian population continues to age, organizations and services need to provide adequate and appropriate social programs to alleviate feelings of social isolation (McNamara & Gonzales, 2011). Seniors’ centres provide recreation and social activities tailored to older adults, as well as opportunities to volunteer and socialize. Although widely available, the extent to which older adults use seniors’ centres, relative to other community organizations to meet social needs is unknown. Also, there is little research on the provision of recreation programs in seniors’ centres by municipal parks and recreation departments. The purpose of this qualitative case study is to understand how the Burlington Seniors’ Centre build community for its older adult participants. Data was collected through document analysis of seven promotional materials, policies and procedures manuals, twelve semi-structured interviews with recreation practitioners and older adult participants, and observations of eight recreation programs. Recreation practitioners discussed culture change at the seniors’ centre to change perceptions of older adults, and structuring program experiences when developing recreation programs. Older adults valued developing new social connections, improving skills while aging, and experiencing a sense of community with recreation program and volunteer groups. Important insights emerge from this study, namely how older adults can cultivate significant relationships and improve skills in positive and inclusive atmospheres. However, this can be accomplished based on organizational capacities in the recreation department, including number of rooms available for programming, instructors and collaborations with community organizations. Future research areas include the role power plays in seniors’ centre contexts, improving opportunities to alleviate social isolation and combating images of ageist attitudes for baby boomers who perceive seniors’ centres as a place for the frail elderly.
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Brooke Gibbons (2019). Older Adults' Experiences of Community in Municipal Recreation Contexts: A Case Study of the Burlington Seniors' Centre. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/15032