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Table 1 Studies investigating the determinants of sport participation for community dwelling older adults

From: Sport and ageing: a systematic review of the determinants and trends of participation in sport for older adults

Ref & Year Design* Method Sample (n) Country Age (yrs) Cohort Sex** Aim (as reported by the author) Sport and/or PA**** Sport*** Theory Key finding(s) Quality Score (out of 1.0)*****
[45] (2010) Quant Cross-sectional 2111 England 60–69 Community dwelling adults M&F Examine the reasons for the decline in physical activity PA & sport General sports   -Barriers included employment, lack of leisure time, physical limitations and poor health
- There were few sport participation differences between employed and retired older adults, thus suggesting employment and lack of leisure time may not be a determinant of participation.
[44] (2011) Quant Cross-sectional 22,050 Australia >65 Community dwelling adults M&F Characterise the types of leisure time physical activity in older Australians PA & sport General sports   - Older adults are more likely to engage with organised activity rather than unorganised activity, such as physical activity classes, rather than sport)
- Most activities undertaken were aerobic types of activities, such as swimming, golf, cycling, racquet ball and rowing
[13] (2006) Qual Interviews 28 Australia 60–89 Masters athletes M&F Explore the motives and experiences of Australian Masters Games’ athletes Sport General sports Post-structural - Participants believed that their involvement in competitive sport prolonged their physical fitness, social health and psychological health.
- Participants celebrated that their behaviour challenged age-appropriate norms and disassociated themselves from the aged stereotype
- Resistance to the ageing body was associated with feelings of personal empowerment. However participants did not deny they were ageing, but wanted to enjoy playing sport for as long as they could
[23] (2009) Quant Longitudinal 284 Australia 40–96 Lifeball members/ex-members M&F Describe and examine the demographic and health related characteristics of Lifeball players and how these affect continuation in the sport Sport Lifeball******   Lifeball appealed to those who were already active, however poor health was the main reason for discontinuing playing Lifeball.
Participants who had continued to play Lifeball 12 months after starting were more likely to report higher perceived socialisation benefits, but the quantitative data did not show any changes to level of physical activity, self-reported health status and quality of life
[50] (2012) Qual Interviews 22 Sweden 66–90 Active sports people M&F How sports can affect old adults’ processes of sense-making about old age Sport General sports Grounded theory - Participants used sport to maintain their ‘look age’, that is to maintain their weight, as a way to control the ageing process
- Participants used sport as a way of evaluating and understanding old age, that is understanding how their physical capabilities were decreasing through participating in sport. Known as ‘capability age’.
- Men measured capability age more quantitatively than women (through results of competition), and perceived ageing as a negative concept
- Women accepted their physical decline but saw ageing as a more positive process, where they could feel empowered and would become inspirational to other women
[19] (2001) Qual Interviews 15 New Zealand 71–78 Masters’ Games participants M&F Examine the beliefs about the role and meaning of physical activity in later life PA & sport General sports   - An appropriate level of competition and fairness was deemed important in order to value and enjoy involvement
- Whilst participants dropped out of sport within a few years of leaving school, they started played again, either informally or in organised competition, in their mid-50s or early 60s
- Participants largely participated in team sports in their youth, but now participated in individual sports
[15] (2012) Quant Cross-sectional 408 USA 55–94 Senior Games’ participants M&F Describe the behaviours, importance of the reasons for participation and perceived outcomes associated with the North Carolina Senior Games PA & sport General sports   - Participating in the North Carolina Senior Games made a contribution to participants’ physical and social engagement, for example being physically active and socially interacting with their peers
- Competition was important to participants but not as important as social reasons
- As the Games was a structured year round programme, this enabled participants to be more active throughout the year. Also less educated participants (high school or lower) saw the social determinants of participation as more important than higher educated participants
[16] (2013) Qual Interviews 10 USA 52–71 Senior Games’ participants M&F Examine the experience of older adults participating in serious leisure to determine how this experience contributes to successful ageing Sport General sports Serious leisure perspective - Participants expressed the need to persevere through injury and illness, as they expected positive outcomes, such as training success or to ensure financial stability (through winning races)
- Benefits of participation reported included physical and social benefits, such as social networking/developing friendships, physical fitness, enhanced self-image and fun, from their participation.
- Participants have developed a specialised knowledge base of how to play a sport and this previous investment encourages them to continue participating as they age.
- Participants reinforced their social identities through their sport participation
[20] (2005) Qual Ethnography & interviews 18 Australia 64–88 Bowls participants F Identify the objective career of lawn bowlers and the subjective interpretations the participants assign to the sport Sport Bowls Serious leisure perspective -Women can engage with a sport via various pathways, such as friends, family or life circumstances and for different reasons, therefore previous history is not always the main determinant
- Some women thrived on the competition, whereas other participants enjoyed informal participation
[48] (2001) Quant Longitudinal 1710 Scotland 39–60 Community dwelling adults M&F Examine physical activity participation data for early and late middle age in the West of Scotland PA & sport General sports   Individual sports are undertaken more by men than women in late middle age and more differentiation by socio-economic status is seen in late middle age than early middle age 0.55
[17] (2014) Qual Photo elicitation & interviews 6 USA 56–70 North Carolina Senior Games’ participants M&F Use photo elicitation to examine the meanings associated with physical activity participation PA & sport General sports Grounded theory - Participants indicated that they were resisting the stereotypes of ageing imposed upon them by society and were defining what successful ageing meant
- Participating in a mega event provided an opportunity to develop a sense of collective community through competition and friendship.
- Participants distinguished themselves from other older adults through competition.
- Participants used sport as a mechanism to transform their identity from ageing older adults to competitive athletes
[49] (2014) Qual Interviews 10 South Korea 66–83 Sport club members M&F Examine the benefits of serious involvement in leisure activities among older Korean sport club members PA & sport General sports Serious leisure perspective Serious involvement in sports club activities provided the participants with psychological, social and physical health benefits 0.65
[47] (2012) Quant Longitudinal 1460 The Netherlands 55+ Retired or widowed participants M&F Examine widowhood and retirement as determinants of moderate to vigorous physical activity and sports participation PA & sport General sports   No association between retirement or widowhood on sports participation, therefore not a determinant of participation 0.91
[22] (2011) Qual Photovoice & focus groups 15 Canada 12–72 Curling participants F Examine the influence of curling on the health of women in rural Canada Sport Curling   - Curling was vital to participants’ mental and physical health in winter
- Playing curling can foster social connections and decrease social loneliness
- Curling was seen as a way to support rural life. Participants volunteered and supported the club as an extension of supporting their community
[14] (2007) Qual Ethnography & interviews 110 Australia 55–94 Masters Games’ participants M&F How older adult Masters sport participants interpreted the concept of community Sport General sports Grounded theory - Participants developed feelings of belonging and membership with other participants through having a common interest in a particular sport
- Being identified as a sports person whose very participation in sport was seen as an achievement, reinforced a feeling of relevance and life purpose.
- Participants had shared desires to remain competitive, healthy and active in order to positively age
- Older adults felt they had some influence and control in the sport they were playing by being able to “give back”, either through coaching or volunteering
[21] (2003) Qual Interviews 19 USA 67–87 Golf participants M&F Investigate the premise that serious leisure supports successful ageing Sport Golf Serious leisure perspective - Golf has different types of participants (core, moderate, social or therapeutic devotees) and therefore each group had different determinants to participation.
- Participants enjoyed social health (social interaction and friends they had developed), Psych health (intellectual challenge, self-improvement, enjoyment, stress relief relaxation, pure fun) and PH (prevention of disability, as it kept them active and moving).
- Golf was perceived to help some participants’ age well. It was a purposeful, meaningful activity and provided significant social relationships
[18] (1997) Quant Cross-sectional 246 USA 55+ Senior Olympics participants M&F Explore the influence of histories of competitive sports involvement, health beliefs, reasons for exercising and personality on physical activity participation PA & sport General sports Health belief model - Childhood and adolescent participation are not significant on Masters’ sport participation. However more than half of Masters’ participants still played sport in their 20s and 30s and others returned to sport during middle age rather than retirement. Suggests that some prior sport history is important but not all prior participation
Competitors believed exercise was more important than non-exercisers, however they had more varied motivation to participate (improved health, in addition to socialisation and competency) than non-sports exercisers and non-exercisers
[46] (2010) Quant Cross-sectional 6569 Germany 50–67 Post-menopausal women F Examine the subject-related determinants of physical activity for post-menopausal women PA & sport General sports   - Sport participation was significantly associated with occupation (civil servants most popular), so job type can be a determinant for some participants
- Also, later in life nulliparous women were less physically active than parous women, and women who had children at a younger age are less likely to participate in sport than older mothers, − Non-indigenous women was strongly associated with low sport participation
  1. * Research design: Quant = quantitative research methods, Qual = qualitative methods. ** Sex: F = female, m = Male, M&F = both male and female. *** Sport: General sports = not one specific sport. A mix of different sports. **** Sport and/or PA: Sport = articles that only report on sport, PA & Sport = articles that report on both types of exercise but provide sport specific results. ***** Quality ratings: 08.-1 = good, 0.61–.079 = moderate, 0.0–0.6 = poor. ****** Lifeball is a team sport that is particularly suitable for older adults. It is a light intensity game that involves walking, passing and throwing a medium sized ball