What affects our perception of being 'old'? An investigation of the factors that influence an individual's opinions of older people.
Cardiff Metropolitan University
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Over the next 20 years the U.K. will see a significant shift of the population towards people over the age of 50. By 2021 the number of people over 50 is projected to be 25 million (40% of the population), Office of National Statistics (2000). This projected population shift will have increasing significance on the UK economy for many reasons and the dominance of the older population will demand a focus and recognition of needs and preferences. How older people are perceived will determine the ability to effectively identify their requirements. The main focus of this investigation is around Six Leisure / Sports Facility Managers. This qualitative study used perceptionary research methods to ensure the investigation delved beyond the superficial values, beliefs and influences of the individuals. This was analysed using an interpretive approach and referenced against the opinions of older people. The aims and objectives of this study have demonstrated that the participant's perceptions are usually influenced by more than one factor. This method of decision making proved the most consistent and the opinions formed using this method appeared to reflect the views of the older participants. On the occasions when an opinion was made in isolation, the perceived view was not consistent with the actual opinion of older participants. Whilst it was apparent that many factors influenced the participant's perceptions of being older, some emerged consistently. These include the perceived health and well being of an individual, with a clear link between a decline in health and age being recognised. Also the level of wealth had an association to older people with a desire for quality and the ability to be able to afford it. Each participant also showed an understanding of life stages and the appreciation of the socially dictated lifestyle each group should lead. A perceived decline in physical ability was also apparent and participant's associated activities that demand a higher level of physicality with a younger age group. Recognition from all participants's that older people do not like risk was also obvious, plus closely linked to the perceived health and well being of an individual was the ability and desire to participate. Chronological age dominated the participant's opinion of being older. In every instant a familiarity existed with this segmentation method which is unsurprising given that most people's up-bringing will involve a strong association with birthdays, where plenty of emphasis in based on an individual's chronological age. Chronological age therefore had clear associations with certain expectations of being older. Finally personal experience was often used to cross reference individual's opinion, especially with those that had a family member or someone close that was considered to be older. This clearly assisted the individual in determining relevance. In general the participant's perceptions of the older population appear to be accurate and only become confused when trying to group them into chronological segments. Whilst this view did not always match the opinions of older people, this was mainly because of how individual's perceived themselves. The study concluded that with all participants it is apparent that their chronological age does not match their perceived age and a 'chronological confusion' existed. In real terms it is obvious that the participants age faster chronologically than they do psychologically, and therefore chronological age had little relevance despite being the most familiar means of determining 'old'' Chronological age appeared not to be a barrier or restriction but more a measure of experience and preference with a strong understanding of one's 'self’.
MSc Leisure Management
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