Exploring Play and Playfulness in the Everyday Lives of Older Women
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There is an emerging body of literature about older women and play, often focused on social groupings (e.g., Red Hats Society, Raging Grannies). This study aimed to contribute to this body of literature by exploring the meaning, experience, and place of play and playfulness in the day-to-day lives of older women. Interpreting older women’s play as a phenomenologist informed by the feminist gerontology literature, I explored, described, and interpreted play using the voices, words, lived experiences, and artful reflections of four focus groups comprised of nineteen women between the ages of 63 to 95 years. Play emerged to be a wonderful, complex, and paradoxical phenomenon for older women that interconnected in three ways: as a doing, a feeling, and a being. Within and across the women, play was characterized by these paradoxes: time flies by and time slows down, productive and unproductive, social and solitary, and serious and silly. Play was infused into the everyday lives of these older women. Arts-based methods served to invigorate and engage the women and me, and transformed the research environment into a comfortable, open space to play and be playful, and to share, gather, and build knowledge. Thus this research contributes to the growing body of literature about the lives and experiences of older women, from their perspective, adds insight into older women’s play, and grows our knowledge about collecting data through arts-based methods with older women.