It also assists these individuals to better understand themselves and nature and improves their understanding of their place in the world around them and their senses. For people who pursue some of the more challenging outdoor recreation activities, they have many opportunities for development of self-image and self-confidence, cooperation and trust, and physical fitness. These benefits frequently are only gained through sporting and other leisure time activities in a natural environment.
Up until now, however, the emphasis has not been on recreational facilities for this older population. In a study conducted for the YMCA (Blanding, 1994) as part of the Comprehensive Leisure and Aging Study of the University of Northern Colorado and National Retired Persons Association, directors of senior centers and programs were asked to say whether or not they provided any of a select group of outdoor recreation activities. As noted by the following chart, very few senior centers or programs have been providing much in the way outdoor recreation activities. Often, this is due to barriers placed by professionals or by older adults themselves with regard to outdoor recreation. For many, the urban environment in which they reside provides a perceived barrier to outdoor recreation possibilities.
However, in a study conducted of Colorado senior center directors, a state in which outdoor locations are easily accessible, it was found that many perceived cost, lack of experience, and fear as reasons for non-participation by older adults. Similarly, in a Maine study, it was discovered that many of these senior center professionals did not know where to find qualified leaders for outdoor activities particularly for this age group. Insurance and liability concerns enter into the picture for potential providers of outdoor recreation who are hesitant that such programs may endanger older individuals. In several studies of leisure constraints, it has been found that lack of experience and knowledge, cost, transportation, lack of companionship, fear, and misconceptions contribute to non-participation by older adults.
To determine responses that must be made in society to accommodate these new adult challenges, researchers are beginning to take an in-depth look at leisure and recreation behaviors associated with the babyboomers (e.g. Kelly et al., 1987; Warnick, 1987). However, even though the age is important in this case, especially due to the unique make up of the boomer personality, it is necessary to keep in mind that age is only one of several factors that will impact leisure-time participative patterns. Health, income level, education, past social activities, early life recreation experiences, occupational and leisure attitudes also significantly impact recreation behavior.
For example, the American Association of Retired People (AARP website) conducted a study in 2004 to investigate how these millions of individuals within this babyboomer generation and the various segments within it have progressed with their planning and preparation for retirement. With this study, data were collected in 30-minute telephone interviews with a nationally representative sample of 1,200 Americans ages
38 to 57. Also, an oversample survey was conducted with African-American and Hispanic babyboomers to yield a total, when combined with those in the general sample, of 309 African-American and 301 Hispanic participants. Several key findings came out of this study:
1) Babyboomers are far more likely now than five years ago previous to the survey to describe themselves as knowledgeable about and favorably predisposed toward Social Security. These boomers feel more confident that Medicare will be available when they reach age 65; 2) Boomers remain optimistic about retirement, but their expectations, particularly those related to finance, have become much more conservative; and 3) These individuals' primary definitions of retirement are largely unchanged since 1998. Their main goals are to spend more time with family, pursue hobbies and interests, and enjoy leisure.
A study about senior recreation by Del Webb retirement communities found that active recreation, particularly adventurous pursuits such as hiking and river rafting, are developing into high ranking lifestyle activities for individuals over 55. At the top of the list were health and fitness activities including strength training and cardio workouts. Although individual sporting activities such as swimming, kayaking and even hang gliding are becoming more of interest, this age group also ranks team sports such as softball and tennis high. Nearly 20% of the respondents rated softball "extremely important" and 25% said the same about tennis. However, it is not no work and all play for many of these individuals. The Del Webb community outside of Detroit, Michigan, for example, continues to have a high number of residents who are employed. They work out in the morning or evening around their 9 to 5 work schedule.
Del Webb surveyed current and prospective residents on lifestyle interests in order to determine present and emerging trends related to lifestyle amenities, programs and services. In this way, the retirement community organization could ensure meeting the specific needs of its residents. A total of 5, 138 people participated in the survey. Del Webb is an organization of national communities for people 55 or older, which include. fitness centers and golf courses as well as a variety of classes and clubs ranging from ceramics to computers to personal investing. Since 1960, Del Webb has sold almost 80,000 homes for the active adult buyer - the fastest-growing demographic segment of the market. We are the nation's leading builder of active adult and lifestyle communities for people age 55 and older.
As our aging population grows, organizations of many different kinds will be facing the issue of how best to serve the diversity of needs and interests represented by these older babyboomer adults. Outdoor recreation is one of the many program areas that is growing in popularity for this population and must be responded to. According to Adkins (2004) a number of factors will shape the work involvement in retirement as a leisure choice. One of these will be the declining workforce size and the need for qualified workers. Some older adults will see retirement as an opportunity of pursuing a new career after experiencing some dissatisfying work careers. As a result, the parks, recreation, and leisure industry must respond to the needs of this new contingency and see the future as a new challenge rather than status quo to satisfy participants. The possibilities and demands of this aging population are yet unknown. One thing is recognized: The servicing of older adults will necessitate leisure professionals to know and understand this population as unique and varied in its interests as well as preferences. The same old approach and traditional menu of activities as in the past have to be replaced with creative, innovative programs and services that are needs based. Leisure professionals who can anticipate the changes and envision the coming future will position themselves as the leaders with the aging of America.
Because the studies of babyboomers and their demographics in relationship to their interest in leisure time and recreational activities are sparse, this research study will add valuable information as to the differences that exist among babyboomers that make them greatly interested, partially interested or having no interest at all in these outdoor activities. At this point in time, one can make assumptions how health, income, education and previous lifestyle experiences impact the present activities and future desired activities of baby boomers. However, until actual data are acquired, they only remain assumptions rather than proven facts. It is the expectation of this study that more will be understood about the specific needs of this massive babyboomer population so that they may age with greater life interests, better physical and mental health and more personal satisfaction.
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Illinois Parks & Recreation. Retrieved February 22, 2008 http://www.lib.niu.edu/ipo/1994/ip941128.html
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