Are they ‘worth their weight in gold’? Sport for older adults: benefits and barriers of their participation for sporting organisations

Claire R. Jenkin, Rochelle M. Eime, Hans Westerbeek, Grant O’Sullivan, Jannique G.Z. van Uffelen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)
30 Downloads (Pure)


The ageing global population has led to an increased focus on health for older adults. However, older adults have not been a specific priority for some sporting organisations (SOs). Thus, there is an emerging opportunity for this age group to be considered within international sport policy. The aim of this study was to understand the benefits and barriers that SOs encounter when engaging older adults. Eight focus group interviews (n = 49) were held with representatives of Australian national sporting organisations (NSOs), and older adults who were either sport club or non-sport club members. The socioecological model domains, interpersonal, organisational and policy, were used as a framework for thematic analysis, and organisational capacity building concepts were utilised to explain the findings. Common perceived benefits included interpersonal benefits (intergenerational opportunities and role models) and organisational benefits (volunteering, financial contributions and maximised facility usage) for engaging older adults. Common perceived barriers included interpersonal barriers (competing priorities and perceived societal expectations), organisational barriers (lack of appropriate playing opportunities, lack of facility access and lack of club capacity) and policy barriers (strategic organisational focus on children and elite sport and risk management). Whilst participation in sport is not common for older adults, their involvement can be invaluable for sport clubs. It is not anticipated that any policy focus on older adults will significantly increase active participation for this age group. However, any increase in older adults’ sport participation either through actively playing, supporting family and friends and/or volunteering will contribute to the positive health of individuals, sport clubs and the community.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)663-680
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Journal of Sport Policy
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2016


  • Older adults
  • participation in sport
  • qualitative study
  • socioecological model
  • sport clubs
  • sport policy


Dive into the research topics of 'Are they ‘worth their weight in gold’? Sport for older adults: benefits and barriers of their participation for sporting organisations'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this