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Foreword: Role of Leisure and Physical Activity for Millennials, Generation X (Seniors/Older Adult in Training), and Current Cohort of Seniors

Singleton, Jerome F. PhD, CTRS

doi: 10.1097/TGR.0000000000000150
Role of Leisure and Physical Activity for Seniors in Training
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School of Health and Human Performance, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

No financial or commercial relationship exists between journal and the author.

Global society is changing. Approximately 20 million individuals are migrating from developing countries to developed countries per year.1,2 This shift will have an impact on how globally we define the terms “aging,” “leisure engagement,” and “leisure physical activity.”3–5 By the year 2050, 20% of the global society will be older than 65 years.1,2 These are the millennials and generation X of today. Individuals acquire conditions that may change their abilities across the life course.6,7 As an example, Statistics Canada8 reported the person's abilities across various age categories—0 to 14 (3.7%), 15 to 24 (4.7%), 25 to 44 (8.00%), 45 to 64 (18.3%), 65 to 74 (33%), and 75 or more (56.3%). What are the abilities of people in your country across the life course?

Studies have found that engagement in leisure and physical activities enhances the social, physical, and cognitive well-being of participants.9–14 A variety of theories have emerged to explain aging from activity, disengagement, selective optimization and compensation, gerotranscendence, and socioemotional selectivity theory to understand the aging process.15–22 Shifting discourse has emerged related to aging, such as the Silver Economy in the European Union, which views aging as a potential economic generator. The discourse related to persons with differing abilities has shifted from a limitation to a potential economic generator in tourism.6 Why are businesses ignoring 10% of the global society such as persons with differing levels of abilities (dementia, arthritis, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease [COPD])?6 Why are allied health providers using frameworks that focus on a condition versus the abilities of the person? Why are agencies focusing on labels versus access of citizens to their business? People are part of a social network, as they age, when one person acquires a condition that effects his or her abilities, the social network is affected (family, friends, work environment). Why has gerontology studied aging as a product (≥65 years) versus a process? Societies were not prepared for the boomer generation. How can societies and allied health professionals assist the next age wave of millennials and generation X from insights from the current cohort of older adults?

Topics in Geriatric Rehabilitation (TGR) journal is the leading journal in enhancing knowledge of how allied health care professions enhance the well-being of the current cohort of older adults. TGR has provided insights into Alzheimer disease, communication, caregiving, exercise, sexuality, and rehabilitation as examples. In 2050, 20% of the global society will be older than 65 years. These individuals were born in 1985 or earlier. The PEW report23 on millennials and aging provided insights for the millennials as they age (1980-2000). Generation X are in their 40s and early 50s in 2015; in 2050, they will be in their 70s to 90s. A person born in 1980 will be 70 in 2050. There is also shift in the discourse on aging, from aging as a product (≥65) to aging as a process. This shift in the discourse on aging framed the following questions. What are the roles of allied health professions in prevention of persons acquiring a condition that may change a person's life as they age (millennials, generation X)? What is the role of leisure and/or physical activity as prevention for millennials and generation X? What is the role of leisure and/or physical activity for the current cohort of individuals older than 65 years? How are images shaped by the current cohort of older adults and service delivery? What will the needs of an aging population be in 2050 (millennials and generation X)? How could intersectionality theory24,25 assist allied health professionals to prepare for the age wave in 2050 in accessing and using leisure opportunities or engaging in physical activities (millennials and generation X)? How could intersectionality theory24,25 assist the current age wave in accessing and using leisure opportunities or engaging in physical activities? How could theories such as environmental press25–28 and ecological model17,29 framed with intersectionality theory23,24 assist allied health professionals in empowering millennials, generation X, and the current cohort of older adults to access leisure opportunities and physical activity?

What are the potential roles of allied health professions (nursing, occupational therapy, kinesiology, speech, audiology, pharmacy, health promotion, health policy, therapeutic recreation, physiotherapy, etc) in empowering millennials and generation X (seniors in training), to reduce their risk of acquiring a condition that will change their abilities as they age? What are the current roles of allied health professions (nursing, occupational therapy, kinesiology, speech, audiology, pharmacy, health promotion, health policy, therapeutic recreation, physiotherapy, etc) in empowering access to the current cohort of seniors' leisure opportunities or physical activities that enhance their well-being?

The purpose of this special edition of TGR was to reframe the discourse regarding aging within the millennial generation and generation X as they age. How can the insights to the role of leisure and physical activities for the current cohort of individuals older than 65 years assist in preparing for the age wave (millennial generation and generation X) in 2050 globally? The authors in this special edition provided articles that (a) are theoretical that frame the discourse on leisure and engagement for seniors/older adults in training (millennials, generation X) and the current cohort of older adults older than 65 years; (b) practice-driven research related to seniors/older adults in training (millennials and generation X) and to current cohort of older adults older than 65 years related to leisure engagement or physical activity; and (c) outline how to reflect on a variety of frameworks for leisure engagement or physical activity for current cohort and future seniors/older adults in training (millennials, generation X).

Individuals participate in an array of opportunities across their life course from sports, arts, and culture to physical activity. The involvement may change as persons enter and leave differing stages of the life course.2,7,9,10,12–14 The authors in this special edition provide insights into the discourse of understanding how the term physical activity, sport, and the context of the experience may influence the involvement or noninvolvement in that opportunity. The terms used are often defined within the dominant discourse of the field that frames their studies.30

The articles in this special edition reflect the continuum of understanding the abilities of aging as a process and within differing conceptual frameworks related to the terms leisure and physical activity.30 Leisure and aging research has often been caught between conceptual frameworks of gerontology, leisure, sport, and discipline-based research.2,3,5,9,13,14 Dionogi's article provided a lens within a sport discourse framework. Witcher provided insights into how “physical activity” has been perceived within a rural population and implications for the next generation of seniors/older adults. Naar, Wong, West, Son, and Liechty provided insights into how one sport, softball, influenced the participants' experience. Roberts, Bishop, Ruppert-Stroescu, Clare, Hermann, Singh, Balasubramanan, Struckmeyer, Mihyun Kang, and Slevitch provided perspectives on physical activity involvement within an intergenerational program, Active Aging Project LIFE, and found that each generation gained insights from the other. As individuals age, they acquire conditions that may impede their lives.7 Genoe and Zimmer (COPD) found that the perception of lived space and how context influences involvement of persons with COPD. Meisner, Linton, Séguin, and Spassiani (pain) found that “Indeed, it is possible to live healthfully despite acquiring chronic conditions and/or pain and functional impairment during the life course.” Mobily and Lenartz (arthritis) found that involvement in an activity was shaped by the affective accounts that surrounded participation, exercise defined through somatic signs, social support associated with better attendance, exercise class as an “organizing structure,” and difficulty in knowing how much exercise was “enough.”

Each of the articles provided insights into the diversity of how scholars defined age, what tools were used to frame the study, and insights from their findings. They all illustrated the complexity of studying the current cohort of senior/older adults but provided insights for the next generation of senior/older adults, the current millennials and generation X.

How will allied health professionals prepare for the next generation of older adults in 2050, 2061, 2100? One needs to build upon insights from the current cohort and recognize that the cohorts of older adults in 2050, 2061, 2100 differ because of their history, exposure to technology, and education. How do we prevent the next generation of older adults being frailer? We need to provide opportunities that reduce at-risk behaviors. Studies indicate that individuals who are more active have less health issues; how can employers provide opportunities to remain engaged in opportunities while working?

How will you as a medical professional or an allied health professional assist the next cohort of seniors in prevention as well as intervention using meaningful engagement as the vehicle for change, as individuals enter new transitions as they chronologically age.

—Jerome F. Singleton, PhD, CTRS

School of Health and Human Performance,

Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

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