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logo of 2021 World Masters GamesAdding parasports to the World Masters Games creates opportunities for greater participation.

Study to promote sport opportunities for older adults with disabilities

A project studying sport and physical activity behaviours in older adults with a disability aims to promote their participation.

The three-year project, funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, will involve an international team interviewing athletes and non-athletes regarding their experiences in exercise and participation in sport.

Sean Horton of the Faculty of Human Kinetics is collaborating with UWindsor colleagues Paula van Wyk and Patti Weir; Joseph Baker of York University’s School of Kinesiology and Health Science; Rylee Dionigi of the School of Exercise Science, Sport and Health at Charles Sturt University; and Michael Gard of the School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences at the University of Queensland.

Previous research has shown that while more than half of teenagers between the ages of 15 and 19 regularly participate in sporting activities, that number drops to less than 20 per cent by age 55. Participation rates continue to decline with age, and for adults with a disability, are lower still.

The study seeks to investigate this underrepresentation and explore means to facilitate participation. The team hopes to identify barriers such as access and financial means, ultimately informing programming and policy as it is related to older adults with a disability.

“Previous studies suggest there is a demand for these opportunities, that people want to be more active,” said Dr. Horton. “We want to help overcome some of these barriers and give them the opportunity to experience the benefits of participation.”

As an example, he noted the recent addition of parasports to the World Masters Games creates additional opportunities for participation.

Horton has been a participant in the World Masters Games as both an athlete and a researcher and found that competing gave him added credibility with the other athletes. The World Masters Games started in 1985 in Toronto, and like the Olympics Games, are usually held every four years, typically attracting up to 30,000 athletes playing 30 different sports. The next games are scheduled for 2021 in Japan.

—Martin Vaughan

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