Pleasure: A forgotten dimension of physical activity in older age

Cassandra Phoenix, Noreen Orr

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Pleasure is an under-researched and under theorized concept within health and health-related areas, particularly in relation to physical activity in older age. This gap is addressed here. The paper forms part of a larger qualitative project conducted between March 2011 and July 2013 within which fifty-one physically active older adults (age sixty to ninety-two years) were interviewed about their experiences of physical activity. Twenty-seven of these participants were also involved in a photo elicitation exercise whereby they responded to photographic images of themselves doing their activity. The paper reports in-depth on one of the themes - pleasure - that was initially identified through a rigorous categorical-content analysis of this data. An original typology of pleasure for physical activity in older age is developed, which details four significant ideal types of pleasure: sensual pleasure; documented pleasure; the pleasure of habitual action; and the pleasure of immersion. The implications of this typology for debates around embodiment, affect, and narratives of ageing are discussed in relation to health promotion and future research in this underserved area.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)94-102
Number of pages9
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Early online date11 Jun 2014
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2014

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Exercise
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pleasure
  • Qualitative Research


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