University of Worcester Worcester Research and Publications

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 ORCID:, Kohe, Geoffery, Evans, Shirley ORCID: and Brooker, Dawn ORCID: (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. ISSN Electronic: 2520-8691 Print: 2520-8683

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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.

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This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit

Uncontrolled Discrete Keywords: Dementia, Identity, Serious leisure, Social citizenship, Space
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Divisions: College of Health, Life and Environmental Sciences > School of Allied Health and Community
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Copyright Info: © The Author(s) 2022
Depositing User: Jennifer Bray
Date Deposited: 11 Nov 2022 17:35
Last Modified: 11 Nov 2022 17:35

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