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Rethinking Spaces of Leisure: How People Living with Dementia Use the Opportunities Leisure Centres Provide to Promote their Identity and Place in the World

Russell, Christopher, Kohe, Geoffery Z., Evans, Shirley, Brooker, Dawn (2022) Rethinking Spaces of Leisure: How People Living with Dementia Use the Opportunities Leisure Centres Provide to Promote their Identity and Place in the World. International Journal of the Sociology of Leisure, 6 (2). pp. 135-166. ISSN 2520-8691. (doi:10.1007/s41978-022-00121-x) (KAR id:101327)


We report on research that found joining activities within community leisure and fitness centres (Centres) enabled people living with dementia to create meaning about everyday life and foster identity. Focusing on three Centres in England, the study was informed by the experiences and accounts of four people living with dementia, their life-partner (if applicable) and the sports professional most closely associated with the person as each participated within a range of leisure opportunities. The methodology was underpinned by phenomenological philosophy and utilised participative methods. Theoretically, the paper draws upon considerations of serious leisure that provide ways in which the participants’ experiences could be understood and wider implications considered. Conceptual themes we derived from the data analysis were place, citizenship, and belonging (where the Centre acting as a physical space was important); identity and interaction (where the focus was upon space making and embodiment); safe spaces and care (i.e., how wellbeing was sustained and how participation and meaningful engagement occurred within the space); and, the value of Centres as opportunity structures (where all of these themes coalesced). Amid current public health debates over resourcing and care, this research provides timely insights and continued needed debates on the relationship between adequate social, economic and political support/resourcing, and the ability of Centres to facilitate and sustain meaningful and safe spaces. Beyond, we suggest our findings offer learning that might extend to wider contexts; for example, through including Centres within social care and health initiatives, where emphasis will be upon participation as a citizen rather than as a patient.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1007/s41978-022-00121-x
Uncontrolled keywords: Dementia, Social citizenship, Serious leisure, Space, Identity
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GV Recreation. Leisure > Sports sciences
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Natural Sciences > Sport and Exercise Sciences
Funders: University of Kent (
SWORD Depositor: JISC Publications Router
Depositing User: JISC Publications Router
Date Deposited: 23 May 2023 14:52 UTC
Last Modified: 24 May 2023 14:03 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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