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Rylee Dionigi

The purpose of this study was to determine the perceived psychological benefits and explore the mechanisms underlying the link between exercise and psychological well-being for a group of older adults (65-72 years; 6 women; 4 men) who participated in a 12-week program of moderate-to-high intensity resistance training. They were interviewed in-depth at 1 week preintervention, 1 month after commencement, and 1 week after completion. The participants believed that resistance training enhanced their well-being, and they gave various physical, mental, and social reasons to explain this link. In particular, self-efficacy and social interaction were found to be key mechanisms underlying this relationship. This study exposed meaningful perceived improvements in psychological well-being that have not been uncovered in quantitative studies of healthy older people undertaking resistance training. The findings highlight the importance of using qualitative methods to enrich understandings of the positive effect of exercise on psychological well-being. The findings also have implications for designing effective resistance training interventions for older people.

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Rylee Dionigi

The number of older athletes is growing with the aging of populations across the developed world. This article reviews studies from a variety of disciplines that focus specifically on the motives and experiences of older adults competing in physically demanding sports at events such as masters and veterans competitions in Australia or the Senior Olympics in North America. It is shown that the majority of research into this phenomenon has taken a quantitative approach or failed to consider older athletes’ experiences in the context of broader sociocultural discourses. Therefore, using the author’s research into the experiences of older Australian masters athletes as a catalyst, the need for and strength of sociological qualitative research in this area is discussed. The use of qualitative methods, such as in-depth interviews and observations, and interpretive analysis provided alternative ways of making sense of older adults and their relationship with competitive sport to what is typically found in the sport and aging literature.

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Rylee Dionigi and Gabrielle O’Flynn

Physical performance discourses are concerned with improving fitness and competing to win or achieve a personal best. Older people are commonly not recognized as acceptable or normal subjects of performance discourses because they are traditionally positioned as weak and less able. Yet the number of older people participating in physically demanding competitive sports is increasing. The purpose of this paper is to use a poststructural framework to explore how Masters athletes use performance discourses to define their participation. Interviews and observations were conducted with 138 participants (ages 55–94) of the 8th Australian Masters Games. The findings indicate that performance discourses work both as a medium for redefining what it means to be an older athlete and for re-inscribing normalized constructs of the acceptable older athlete.

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David Geard, Amanda L. Rebar, Peter Reaburn, and Rylee A. Dionigi

Due to their high physical functioning, masters athletes are regularly proposed to exemplify successful aging. However, successful aging research on masters athletes has never been undertaken using a multidimensional successful aging model. To determine the best model for future successful aging research on masters athletes, we had masters swimmers (N = 169, M age = 57.4 years, 61% women) self-report subjective successful aging, and physical, psychological, cognitive, and social functioning. Using this data we tested one hypothesized and three alternative successful aging models. The hypothesized model fit the data best (-2LL = 2052.32, AIC = 1717) with physical (β = 0.31, SE = 0.11), psychological (β = 0.25, SE = 0.11), and social (β = 1.20, SE = 0.63) functioning factors significantly loading onto a higher order successful aging latent factor. Successful aging should be conceptualized as a multidimensional phenomenon in future masters athlete research.

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David Geard, Peter R.J. Reaburn, Amanda L. Rebar, and Rylee A. Dionigi

Global population aging has raised academic interest in successful aging to a public policy priority. Currently there is no consensus regarding the definition of successful aging. However, a synthesis of research shows successful aging can be defined as a late-life process of change characterized by high physical, psychological, cognitive, and social functioning. Masters athletes systematically train for, and compete in, organized forms of team and individual sport specifically designed for older adults. Masters athletes are often proposed as exemplars of successful aging. However, their aging status has never been examined using a comprehensive multidimensional successful aging definition. Here, we examine the successful aging literature, propose a successful aging definition based on this literature, present evidence which suggests masters athletes could be considered exemplars of successful aging according to the proposed definition, and list future experimental research directions.