Developmental Changes in Leisure
Cross-sectional studies report age differences in leisure activities (Bray & Howard, 1983). Young adults participate in a greater range of activities than middle-aged adults do. Furthermore,
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young adults tend to prefer intense leisure activities, such as scuba diving and hang gliding. In contrast, middle-aged adults focus more on home – and family-oriented activities. In later middle age, they spend less of their leisure time in strenuous physical activities and more in sedentary activities such as reading and watching television. Older adults narrow the range of activities and lower their intensity even further (Gordon et al., 1976). People of all ages report feelings of freedom during leisure activities (Larson, Gillman, & Richards,
1997) . Most importantly, however, it is not aging per se that is the most influential in limiting leisure activities of older adults. Health problems have the greatest effect (Duke et al., 2002; Fukukawa et al., 2004; Strain et al., 2002).
Longitudinal studies of changes in individuals’ leisure activities over time show considerable stability over reasonably long periods (Cutler & Hendricks, 1990; Strain et al., 2002). Anthony, the 55-year-old in the last section-opening vignette who likes to fish and ski, is a good example of this overall trend. As Anthony demonstrates, frequent participation in leisure activities during childhood tends to continue into adulthood. Similar findings hold for the pre – and post-retirement years. Apparently, one’s preferences for certain types of leisure activities are established early in life; they tend to change over the life span primarily in terms of how physically intense they are.