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"Age ain't nuttin' but a number" the personal meaning systems of senior women adult cheerleaders /

by Longley, Linda Rackley.

Abstract (Summary)
LONGLEY, LINDA RACKLEY. “Age Ain’t Nuttin’ But a Number: The Personal Meaning Systems of Senior Women Adult Cheerleaders. (Under the direction of Stanley B. Baker.) Current statistics indicate that adults over the age of 85 now comprise the fastest growing age group in the nation. The graying of the planet significantly impacts the delivery of services within the medical and mental health communities. While increased health concerns are typically associated with increasing age, older adults have other needs beyond those of a medical nature. Historically, much of the geriatric literature has been written from the biological and medical perspectives, creating a deficiency model of aging. Less attention has been given to the psychosocial aspects of aging and what constitutes and contributes to psychological health in the older adult. Ongoing gerontology research is needed to address the complexities of the aging experience, particularly those of a psychosocial nature, as the psychosocial issues often overshadow the physical aspects of aging. Loss of life purpose and boredom have been cited as the most damaging psychological threats to the elderly. Old age can challenge the previous perceptions of self and others, creating the need for revisions in the way an older self is experienced and how life in later adulthood is approached with meaning and purpose. Later-life depression has been associated with the loss of self-esteem, the loss of productivity, limited resources, and decreased options while psychological and physical well-being have been linked to a sense of life purpose and meaning. The current study examined the lives of older athletes in order to learn more about the role of athletics in finding meaning and purpose in life, and how aging is experienced and viewed by the senior athlete. The research focused on senior cheerleaders, ages 69 to 77, and was based on interview data, observation data, and document analysis. The goal of the researcher was to better understand the phenomenon of personal meaning as it relates to perceptions of athletics in fulfilling purpose and meaning in later life, and how perceptions of aging are related to athletic activity in the lives of senior adult women. Logotherapy (Frankl, 1978), the Evolving Self (Kegan, 1982), and Personal Construct Theory (Kelly, 1963) provided an appropriate theoretical framework for understanding the personal meaning systems of the senior cheerleaders and their perceptions of cheerleading and of aging. The three theories deal with personal meaning in terms of how individuals perceive themselves and their relationship to the external world around them. The study supports previous findings related to constituents of successful aging. These include activity, involvement, a positive attitude, caring and connectedness, a sense of purpose, humor, and self acceptance. Seven common life themes were found across the lives of the 5 cheerleaders: family; tragedy; activity/involvement; commitment; personal beliefs; fun; and advocacy. While the pathways that led the senior women into cheerleading varied, the purposes for involvement were quite similar. Fun, acceptance, relaxation, and the opportunity to stay busy, active, and involved were offered as reasons for participation in cheerleading as senior adults. The study supported the role of athletics in finding meaning and purpose in life and has implications for teaching future generations of seniors the benefits of athletic participation at an early age. Further research with senior male athletics is recommended to explore the masculine perspective toward aging. “AGE AIN’T NUTTIN’ BUT A NUMBER”:
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School:North Carolina State University

School Location:USA - North Carolina

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:north carolina state university

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