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Feature Story

June 2015


Study Shows Sport Can Ease Retirement Transition

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A recent study from a University of Houston researcher examined how sport can have an impact on the quality of life for people transitioning to retirement. This can include participating in informal sporting activities, organized individual or team sport competition, or other activities like running, cycling or shuffleboard.

"We know that sports can enhance the development of children and adolescents, but the dynamic that comes with sport may be beneficial to the development and well-being of adults as they age," said David Walsh, clinical assistant professor in the UH Department of Health and Human Performance. "Retirement can set us on a positive or negative trajectory, depending on how we adapt. Sport can play a positive role in adults' continued development."

This is good news for recreation and park organizations that have begun developing programs and facility to reach retirement-age patrons with sports, fitness and recreational activities. What's more, it should encourage more communities to engage in efforts to get retirement-age individuals involved in such activities.

To conduct the study, Walsh interviewed more than 250 individuals in a Texas retirement community, asking, "Does sport have the capacity to influence the development process of a person later in life?"

"In my work, people shared experiences when sport played a significant role in life events, such as changes in careers, going away to college, growing families or the death of a loved one," Walsh said. "These significant transitions required a positive response in order to deal with them, and applying this theory that sport serves as a positive response made sense when a person retires."

The study found that when sport is applied to challenging transitions, the adjustments were smoother. Participants felt as if they belonged to a community, were escaping perceived chaos or given more control in their lives.

Life transitions brought both tangible and intangible losses to participants, Walsh explained. These participants sought out sport, he said because of " what they thought it could do for them—bring self-confidence, social interaction and physical activity."

Walsh will be presenting the findings at the 2015 Conference of the North American Society for Sport Management in Ottawa.

He added that his study can inform sports managers to design sport for a targeted population with the intent of enhancing their quality of life. In addition, he hopes his research will kick-start additional research on the relationship between sport and its impact in easing the transition into retirement.


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