Understanding space, place and leisure of women over 85 living in the community
Bergman, Nicole U. H.
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There is an increase in the number of older adults 85 and over, who are choosing to live alone within the community. Moreover, older adults who live alone are reportedly spending an extensive amount of time alone within the home environment. In an effort to provide additional support and resources to older adults living in the community, a compliment of services are being offered through public and private organizations. These in-home supports focus on the instrumental or functional tasks of daily living, such as personal and rehabilitative care, nourishment, maintenance and upkeep of the home, as well as volunteer social visitation. However leisure resources and programs are not included among these services. Consequently, this creates a gap in leisure provision among this segment of the population. Throughout the life course, an individual's identity, role and purpose are developed and sustained through instrumental work roles in the formal and informal sector, as well as through personally meaningful leisure pastimes and experiences. Although roles shift post retirement, participation in instrumental and expressive activities can provide opportunities through which older adults are able to fulfill their need for agency (individuality and autonomy) and affiliation (social relatedness). Therefore barriers that inhibit instrumental or leisure experiences can negatively impact older adults' quality of life. This study explored the leisure lifestyles of four older adults, all of whom were over 85, lived alone within the community and were oriented to person, time and place. It became apparent that participants ordered their lives around a routine that consisted of instrumental, expressive and socially integrated tasks and activities. Moreover participants purposely chose to remain at home because their home environment facilitated freedom, choice and independence. As a result all four participants viewed their independence within the home as a critical determinant to their overall quality of life. Challenges associated with the home environment, participants' personal capacities and relationships were negotiated on a daily basis. Failure to positively adapt to these challenges inhibited meaningful engagement and personal fulfillment. Traditionally, leisure service delivery has been offered within institutions and through various community based venues. As a result leisure provision has been focused on the needs of the frail elderly who reside in institutions or the well elderly who are able to access leisure amenities within the community. However the growing number of older adults electing to live alone is on the rise. As individuals age the home becomes the preferred context for leisure experiences. If older adults are choosing to live alone, then both their instrumental and leisure needs must be addressed. As a result, it is imperative that leisure professionals extend the scope of service delivery to include home centered older adults.