Victoria University researcher Claire Jenkin has found fun and social contact is often more important than competition when it comes to older adults becoming involved in sport.
Ms Jenkin, a PhD candidate at the Institute of Sport, Exercise and Active Living, is working on a research project investigating the possibilities of active and healthy ageing through sport.
The Active and Healthy Ageing through Sport project, a partnership between the Australian Sports Commission and Victoria University, looks into the relationship between adults aged 50 and over and community sport participation.
Researchers asked about the barriers and the appeal of being involved in sport clubs.
She presented some of the findings at the World Congress on Active Ageing, hosted by ISEAL, in Melbourne.
Ms Jenkin said barriers to participation included time, poor health and lack of opportunities.
“A lot of sport is targeted towards younger people, so there can be a lack of playing opportunities for people as they age,” Ms Jenkin said in an interview with 720 ABC Perth.
“Poor physical health can also be a barrier for certain people.”
Ms Jenkin said while competition was important for some older adults, having fun and social interaction in sport was more important for most interviewed.
Her research identified a number of reasons why older adults wanted to be involved in sport clubs, including developing friendships and maintaining health and fitness.
They also saw it as a way to bond with their children and grandchildren.
The challenge for public health authorities wanting to keep seniors active was to support clubs to attract older adults, she said.
“We know that sport clubs are often run by volunteers who do a great job but often don't have the capacity to try and recruit to a new age group,” she said.
“There is a lovely example with Tennis South Australia working with Active Ageing Australia on a program called Rusty Racquets.
"It was targeted at older adults who were new to tennis or hadn't played for a long time. The important thing is that it was promoted as being fun and very sociable.”