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An examination of pickleball participation, social connections, and psychological well-being among seniors during the COVID-19 pandemic

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This study examined how the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the physical activity, social connections, and psychological well-being of seniors who participate in the sport of pickleball. A total of 36 pickleball players who were over the age of 65 completed an online survey that assessed pickleball participation, social connections, physical/mental health, loneliness, and life satisfaction measures in February/March 2020 (pre-COVID) and again in November 2020 (during COVID). Findings indicated that a majority of the participants are still playing pickleball outdoors, but less frequently. They reported lower social connections through pickleball and in their daily life. While perceived physical health scores were stable, participants reported significantly lower mental health, higher loneliness, and lower life satisfaction during the pandemic. Those playing less pickleball were significantly more likely to report lower life satisfaction during the pandemic. The findings from this study have implications for both leisure practitioners and public health professionals as they strategize ways to continue to offer recreation experiences safely.
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World Leisure Journal
ISSN: (Print) (Online) Journal homepage: https://www.tandfonline.com/loi/rwle20
An examination of pickleball participation, social
connections, and psychological well-being among
seniors during the COVID-19 pandemic
Jonathan M. Casper, Jason N. Bocarro & Allura F. Lothary
To cite this article: Jonathan M. Casper, Jason N. Bocarro & Allura F. Lothary (2021):
An examination of pickleball participation, social connections, and psychological well-
being among seniors during the COVID-19 pandemic, World Leisure Journal, DOI:
10.1080/16078055.2021.1957708
To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/16078055.2021.1957708
Published online: 17 Aug 2021.
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An examination of pickleball participation, social
connections, and psychological well-being among seniors
during the COVID-19 pandemic
Jonathan M. Casper
a
, Jason N. Bocarro
a
and Allura F. Lothary
b
a
Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC,
USA;
b
Department of Kinesiology and Community Health, College of Applied Health Sciences, University of
Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Champaign, IL, USA
ABSTRACT
This study examined how the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the
physical activity, social connections, and psychological well-being
of seniors who participate in the sport of pickleball. A total of 36
pickleball players who were over the age of 65 completed an
online survey that assessed pickleball participation, social
connections, physical/mental health, loneliness, and life
satisfaction measures in February/March 2020 (pre-COVID) and
again in November 2020 (during COVID). Findings indicated that
a majority of the participants are still playing pickleball outdoors,
but less frequently. They reported lower social connections
through pickleball and in their daily life. While perceived physical
health scores were stable, participants reported signicantly
lower mental health, higher loneliness, and lower life satisfaction
during the pandemic. Those playing less pickleball were
signicantly more likely to report lower life satisfaction during the
pandemic. The ndings from this study have implications for
both leisure practitioners and public health professionals as they
strategize ways to continue to oer recreation experiences safely.
ARTICLE HISTORY
Received 25 January 2021
Accepted 2 July 2021
KEYWORDS
Senior sport; COVID-19;
physical activity; mental
health; pickleball
The worlds older population, in virtually every country, is experiencing signicant
growth. Data from the World Population Prospects (2019) predicts that by 2050, one
in four people in Europe and North America could be older than 65. Although older
adults are living longer, policymakers have become increasingly concerned about older
adultsquality of life. For example, Walsh et al. (2019) described the gap between
quality and quantity of life resulting from society being unprepared to deal with the
ramications of an aging population. Studies have shown that leisure is an important
contributor to improving the quality of life of older adults, particularly in regard to
social, mental, and physical health (e.g. Berlin et al., 2018; Choi et al., 2018; Kim et al.,
2020). Physical leisure activities have been increasingly recognized as providing both
psychological and physical health benets. For example, Henderson et al. (2012) found
that participants regularly involved in Senior Games were both more physically and
© 2021 World Leisure Organization
CONTACT Jonathan M. Casper jmcasper@ncsu.edu Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management,
North Carolina State University, Box 8004, Biltmore Hall, Raleigh, NC 27695, USA
WORLD LEISURE JOURNAL
https://doi.org/10.1080/16078055.2021.1957708
socially active. Furthermore, studies have found that sport, when appropriately designed,
can help older adults successfully navigate various signicant life transitions and enhance
overall well-being (e.g. Walsh et al., 2019).
The COVID-19 pandemic has restricted most of the leisure outlets that provide criti-
cal social, psychological, and health benets for older adults. Although health strategies
to avoid the spread of COVID-19 (e.g. quarantining and physical distancing) are impor-
tant, these strategies may have a negative impact on other aspects of senior health (e.g.
depression, social isolation, reduction of physical activity) and overall quality of life
(Blazer, 2020; Sepulveda-Loyala et al., 2020).
Although physical activity is seen as a protective factor and essential for the well-being
of older adults (e.g. Lavie et al., 2019), the shelter in place mandates initiated in March
2020 signicantly impacted community leisure opportunities, as many community
leisure activities were suspended and community recreation facilities closed (Son et al.,
2021). This provided both a challenge and opportunity for community leisure providers
to adapt their services to ensure that older adults still received many of the same social
and health benets.
The current study examined older adults who were 65 years and over (termed seniors)
who play a popular sport, pickleball. During the initial study phase pre-COVID-19, the
participants were assessed on pickleball participation/physical activity, social connections,
and psychological well-being. A follow-up study was conducted in November 2020, during
COVID-19 restrictions, assessing similar measures. The purpose of this study was to then
examine how the restriction due to COVID-19 may have aected such measures.
Literature review
Theoretical framework
The theoretical framework for this study was inspired by the Health through Sport model
(Eime et al., 2013a;2013b). The framework was developed based on the notion that
health and well-being incorporate physical, social, and mental domains. The Health
through Sport model depicts the relationship between determinants driving sport par-
ticipation and the reported psychological and social health benets of participation
(Eime et al., 2013b, p. 4). The model incorporates elements of the Socio-Ecological
Model (Sallis & Owen, 2002), sport participation, and health outcomes. Figure 1
depicts the model adapted specically for this study that primarily focused on how inter-
personal and intrapersonal elements relate to health outcomes physical, social, psycho-
logical as well as interactions and interrelationships between the outcomes.
The Health through Sport model suggests that the mechanisms of the links between
sport participation and psychological and social health dier at various stages of life
(Eime et al., 2013b). For example, improved social interaction/ integration and social
skills and improved self-esteem were the most common health aspects reported in the
systematic review for children and adolescents (Eime et al., 2013a), whereas the most
common health aspects reported by adults were psychological health aspects of well-
being (Eime et al., 2013b).
Our study examined the following three health outcomes: physical activity, based on
sport participation (though pickleball) and everyday life; social, based on connections in
2J. M. CASPER ET AL.
sport and everyday life; and psychological well-being, based on perceived physical and
mental health, loneliness, and life-satisfaction. While this study focuses on senior
health, these outcomes also match the outcomes identied by the CDC (2020a) as key
determinants for successful aging through physical activity participation. Within the
leisure context, the three health outcomes are the main components related to leisure
and healthy aging (Gibson & Singleton, 2012). The remaining literature will describe
the three outcomes, their relation to senior heath, and potential impacts due to
COVID-19 restrictions.
Physical activity and sport participation
Studies have shown that physical activity provides numerous psychological, social, and
physiological benets. Older adults who are lonely and socially isolated are usually phys-
ically inactive (e.g. Robins et al., 2018) and there is compelling evidence showing that
physical and social activities can be eective in addressing such issues (Penedo &
Dahn, 2005).
While there are a variety of ways to meet these physical activity recommendations and
confront social isolation, sport participation that promotes physical and psychosocial
well-being may be optimal (Baker et al., 2010). There are several benets of sport partici-
pation and healthy development in later life. In a 20-year longitudinal study examining
older adults, those who played sports (requiring a social element), compared to those par-
ticipating in exercise, were more likely to continue physical activity in later years (Aggio
et al., 2017). Previous studies on sport-based programmes have shown that they enhance
psychological well-being and improve physical functioning including reduced stress,
Intrapersonal
Interpersonal
Physical Activity &
Sport Participation
Structural Social
Connections
Psychological Well-Being:
Physical, Mental, Loneliness
Life Satisfaction
Figure 1. Health through sport conceptual model (adapted from Eime et al., 2013b).
WORLD LEISURE JOURNAL 3
improved mood, and cognitive functioning, and enhanced social capital (Rowe et al.,
2013). With older adults, activities such as sport participation seem to help maintain
well-being and may improve their cognitive function (National Institute on Aging, 2019).
The issue of continuing to provide safe physical activity opportunities among vulner-
able populations is imperative. For example, Cunninghams(2021) analysis of county
level data on COVID-19 and mortality rates suggests that physical activity is associated
with lower COVID cases and deaths. Furthermore, recent evidence suggests that enga-
ging in physical activity during the pandemic alleviated many depression symptoms
faced by older adults during various COVID-19 lockdowns (e.g. Callow et al., 2020; Car-
riedo et al., 2020). Thus, policy makers and governments should consider the potential
detrimental impacts of lockdowns, such as negative psychological ramications, social
exclusion, and physical inactivity. Therefore, our study examines how COVID-19 restric-
tions have aected physical activity and sport participation. We sought to understand
how the amount and intensity of physical activity has changed during COVID-19, and
if participation in pickleball has been aected.
Social connections
Older adults are at risk of social isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and regular
activities, including interactions with friends and engagement in leisure activities, such as
sport, have been signicantly impacted (Williams et al., 2021). Overall, leisure activity has
been found to decrease with age (Mannell & Snelgrove, 2012). Evidence suggests that
physically active leisure participation is characterized by decline with increasing age, a
transition from physical activities to activities that demand less eort, and a shift from
outdoor to indoor activities. Of concern, with redacted leisure activity, is that social
relationships are fostered through leisure, providing opportunities for social engagement
(Mannell & Snelgrove, 2012).
Scholars suggest that leisure can facilitate friendships and social networks, and sport,
in particular, may aord unique social opportunities compared to other recreational
activities (Kim et al., 2021). The benets of playing sport versus other physical activities
lie in the development of creating and maintaining social connection, or creating social
capital (Toepoel, 2013). A substantial body of research has suggested that social capital is
a resource for well-being in older adults, including life satisfaction and quality of life
(Kim et al., 2021). Within social capital are two key elements, cognitive (e.g. feelings)
and structural (e.g. what people do), both linked to psychological well-being (Toepoel,
2013). This study focused on structural capital based on the number of social connections
made though pickleball participation. Leisure activities, such as the sport of pickleball,
oer opportunities for continued physical activity and play indoors, but of equal impor-
tance, oer opportunities for players to maintain or even gain social connections.
Psychological physical health
Previous research has shown an association between leisure activity engagement and
physical health in older adulthood (Cardenas et al., 2009). Maintaining engagement in
a variety of physical activities has been associated with higher self-perceptions of physical
health (Everard et al., 2000). Staying engaged in physical activities has been shown to
have a myriad of health benets across a variety of domains, including cognitive
4J. M. CASPER ET AL.
health (Stillman et al., 2016). Despite the benets and guidelines, many older adults do
not meet recommended standards for physical activity engagement. A systematic
review of physical activity engagement in older adults found that motivation and self-
ecacy were consistently strong predictors of high physical activity engagement
(Notthoet al., 2017). Building upon these ndings, having a regular, routine physical
activity that one enjoys may be particularly important for this population.
Within the context of the COVID-19 global pandemic, preliminary research has
found that the number of seniors attending and participating in group physical activities
has declined (Goethals et al., 2020). Additionally, Castañeda-Babarro et al. (2020)
observed that physical activity highly decreased during connement in all populations,
especially vigorous activities and walking time. As there is strong evidence that engaging
in physical activity is benecial for managing chronic conditions and reducing the risk of
disease, physical activity engagement in the time of COVID-19 is particularly important
for older adults (Cunningham & OSullivan, 2020).
Psychological well-being
Well-being is a broad term encompassing many dierent facets such as social, emotional,
and psychological well-being (Diener & Suh, 1998). Being able to maintain a positive
state of well-being has been shown to be a protective factor against declines in both phys-
ical and cognitive health in older adulthood (Ry,2014). In general, contrary to age-
related stereotypes, older adults maintain a positive state of well-being throughout the
third age (often conceptualized as age 6585; Baltes & Smith, 2003).
Research on the age-related changes in mental health, for example, tends to show
more stability or increases into older adulthood (Cohen-Manseld et al., 2013). This con-
trasts with expectations for physical health, with relatively steady declines. However,
while older adults, in general, have relatively positive mental health, the CDC reports
that approximately 20% of adults aged 55 and older express at least one mental health
concern (CDC, 2008). Another facet of well-being is life satisfaction. In general, previous
research has shown that when asked about their life as a whole, older adults will express a
general sense of satisfaction, and this satisfaction does not generally decline with age
(Diener & Suh, 1998). Previous research has shown that changes in life satisfaction are
predicted by declines in physical health, social support, and activity engagement (Heo
et al., 2013).
Social isolation and loneliness, on the other hand, are well-known problems for older
adults. While socioemotional selectivity theory (Carstensen et al., 1999) postulates that
the goals of older adults change from more knowledge-seeking to emotion-based,
social isolation is a signicant issue among older adults, aecting up to one in three
seniors (Solway et al., 2019). Loneliness has been shown to predict increases in
depression (Hawkley & Cacioppo, 2010). Having a close social network has been
shown to reduce feelings of loneliness and improve overall well-being (English & Car-
stensen, 2014). However, social isolation and loneliness have been shown to be associated
with a myriad of negative outcomes for older adults, such as higher rates of depression
and mortality (Luo et al., 2012).
While, overall, well-being is largely maintained in older adulthood, physical activity
engagement has been shown to be an important protective factor against declines in
the various facets of well-being (Kwag et al., 2011). Physical activity can serve as a way
WORLD LEISURE JOURNAL 5
for older adults to cope with stress, maintain physical and mental alertness, and maintain
a busy and active lifestyle (Stathi et al., 2002). A prospective study found an association
between increases in physical activity and increases in well-being across 32 years, such
that when physical activity levels increased, well-being also increased at a similar rate
(Blomstrand et al., 2009). Both cross-sectional and longitudinal research has shown
that engaging in a physical activity regimen is associated with better physical health
and social, emotional, and psychological well-being (Penedo & Dahn, 2005).
Purpose
Older adults and their family members, along with the rest of the globe, have been practi-
cing physical social distancing in order to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Preliminary
research has already started to show the negative eects of sheltering-in-place on older
adultswell-being, showing increased rates of depression and loneliness (Krendl &
Perry, 2021). The increased stress and self-isolation due to the global COVID-19 pan-
demic may also further exacerbate the risk of mental health problems (Mukhtar,
2020). As leisure activities have been seen as contributing to successful aging (e.g.
Nimrod, 2007) and health benets (e.g. Cardenas et al., 2009), this study enabled us to
understand how the shutdown of leisure spaces and activities due to COVID-19
impacted seniors.
In February 2020, before COVID restrictions, the authors conducted a study looking
at the real and perceived health benets of seniors (65 years and older) playing pickleball.
Pickleball is inherently social as it requires other to play doubles or singles, similar to
tennis but played on a smaller court. The rules are simple, and the game is easy for begin-
ners to learn, but can develop into a quick, fast-paced, competitive game for experienced
players USA Pickleball Association (2020). Pickleball, a trending lifetime sport, was
chosen because it provides a platform for meeting physical activity guidelines (Smith
et al., 2016), creates new social connections (Chen, 2017), and provides unique
hedonic experiences connected to psychosocial well-being (Heo et al., 2018). Pickleball
is pertinent to research on aging because 40% of all frequent players are over 65 years
of age (USA Pickleball Association, 2020).
As part of the initial study, the pickleball participants were assessed based on daily
physical activity and activity specic to pickleball using an activity tracker. The partici-
pants also responded to an online socio-psychological survey that assessed their overall
social connections and social connections through pickleball as well as physical/mental
health, loneliness, and life satisfaction measures. For the purpose of this study, the
socio-psychological survey was re-administered to the same participants eight months
later to assess the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This study was guided by the following research questions:
RQ1: How has COVID-19 aected senior participation in pickleball and daily physical
activity?
RQ2: How has COVID-19 aected social connections both related to pickleball and overall?
RQ3: How has COVID-19 changed perceptions of physical health, mental health, loneliness,
and life satisfaction? Are the dierences in these psychological constructs signicantly cor-
related to lowered pickleball playing frequency or pickleball-specic social connections?
6J. M. CASPER ET AL.
Methods
Participants and procedure
This study was approved by the researchersInstitutional Review Board. Participants
were recruited with the assistance of a senior parks and recreation manager of a South-
eastern US city. The manager contacted participants based on a database of pickleball
players who played at city recreational centres. An email was sent to the pickleball
players asking if they would be willing to take part in the study, and if they met study
requirements (65 years or older and played pickleball at least once per week). The
initial phase of this study, conducted in late February/early March 2020, included phys-
ical activity and sleep measurement with Fitbits over two weeks and an online survey.
Due to a limited number of Fitbits and COVID-19 restrictions, the study was halted
with a total of 38 participants completing the initial study. For the follow-up phase, a
new online survey was sent on 2 November 2020 to the 38 participants, 36 of whom com-
pleted the survey.
Instrument
The initial phase included demographic information: age, gender, race, education level,
and marital status. The follow-up phase linked the initial study based on participants
email addresses. The following survey items/constructs were assessed: physical activity
(during COVID-19), social connections, physical/mental health, loneliness, and life
satisfaction.
Physical activity
The follow-up phase assessed physical activity changes due to COVID-19. The items
asked respondents how much of a change have you had in your daily movement beha-
viours due to the COVID-19 pandemic? (outdoor physical activity/sport; indoor physical
activity/sport; walking; chores; watch TV, use computer, use social media) (a lot less,
somewhat less, about the same, somewhat more, a lot more) (Moore et al., 2020). Partici-
pants were also asked over the past seven days how many days they engaged in moderate-
to-vigorous physical activity (activity that required a moderate/large amount of eort and
caused accelerated or increased heart rate) for a total of at least 60 minutes per day?
Specic to pickleball participation, participants were asked if they still play (yes/no)? If
yes, how much has the COVID-19 pandemic aected your pickleball playing frequency?
(5 point scale; a lot less, somewhat less, about the same, somewhat more, a lot more).
Social connections
Social connections were measured specic to pickleball and overall in the initial phase;
the follow-up phase asked participants to think about their social connections pre-pan-
demic and then respond to: (1) how much has the COVID-19 pandemic aected your
social connections specic to pickleball?; and (2) how much has the COVID-19 pan-
demic aected your social connections overall in your life? Both items were assessed
on a 5-point scale (a lot less, somewhat less, about the same, somewhat more, a lot more).
WORLD LEISURE JOURNAL 7
Physical and mental health
The Short Form-12 (SF-12) Health Survey was used to capture health-related quality of
life for both physical and mental health (Ware et al., 1996). The SF-12 is one of the most
widely used health surveys, capturing four dimensions of physical health including
general health, physical functioning, role of limitations due to physical health problems,
and body pain. Additionally, four dimensions of mental health are captured including
vitality, social functioning, role of limitations due to mental health problems, and
mental health. Sum scores were created for both dimensions and weighted based on
norms from the U.S. population (using a mean of 50 and standard deviation of 10).
This scale was identical for both the initial and follow-up surveys.
Loneliness
Loneliness was measured using the 4-item UCLA Loneliness Scale (ULS-4; Hays &
DiMatteo, 1987). Participants rated how lonely they felt in the past week based on
four dimensions, on a scale from (1) never (2) rarely (3) sometimes and (4) always.
These dimensions included feeling left out, lacking companionship, being isolated
from others, and feeling not in tune with others. A single mean score was calculated
to capture loneliness, with higher scores indicating more feelings of loneliness. This
brief measure has been shown to be similarly consistent to longer versions of the
UCLA Loneliness Scale and aligned with measures used in the Health and Retirement
Study (Hughes et al., 2004). This scale was identical for both the initial and follow-up
surveys.
Life satisfaction
The 5-item Satisfaction with Life Scale was used to measure life satisfaction (Diener et al.,
1985). Participants rated how much they agreed with statements related to general life
satisfaction (e.g. I am satised with my life) from (1) strongly disagree (2) disagree
(3) somewhat disagree (4) neither agree nor disagree (5) somewhat agree (6) agree to
(7) strongly agree. A mean score was calculated across the 5-items. This scale was iden-
tical for both the initial and follow-up surveys.
Data analysis
Data were analysed with IBM SPSS Statistics 26. The rst step was a descriptive analysis
and an examination of the data for normality (i.e. skewness and kurtosis) applying criti-
cal values of less than ±2.0 for skewness and less than ±3.0 for kurtosis (George &
Mallery, 2011). Scales were examined for internal reliability and later items were averaged
to create constructs. Analysis of RQ1 and RQ2 was descriptive (frequencies, means, SD),
while RQ3 analysis utilized paired-samples t-tests to examine mean dierences (p< .05)
in pre and post construct scores. The dierence scores of the psychological constructs, as
well as pickleball playing and social connections, were examined using a Pearson corre-
lation with signicance level set of p< .05.
8J. M. CASPER ET AL.
Results
The demographic characteristics of the sample are shown in Table 1. All health outcome
items were found to have acceptable skewness and kurtosis values and scales were found
to have acceptable internal reliability (Cronbach alpha scores >.70).
Research Question 1 physical activity
RQ1 sought to assess how COVID-19 has aected senior participation in pickleball and
overall physical activity. The rst measure investigated categories of activity changes
during the COVID-19 pandemic (see Table 2). The ndings show that 53% of respon-
dents indicated less physical activity outdoors, while 91% indicated less physical activity
indoors. Some participantsindoor physical activity may have transferred to outdoor
activity, as 31% are more active outdoors, compared to only 9% more active indoors. Par-
ticipants showed a slight increase in walking and chores. Time spent inactive (watching
TV, using computer, using social media) increased for 49% of the participants.
With regard to moderate-to-vigorous activity, the respondents indicated that most
were still very active. A total of 27 participants (80%) engaged in moderate-to-vigorous
activity at least 3 days per week, while only 7 (20%) participants engaged in 2 or fewer
days. As for pickleball participation, 5 out of 36 (14%) have stopped playing pickleball,
while all others are still playing, but outside. For those still playing, 15 (48.4%) are
playing less, 10 (32.3%) are playing about the same, and 6 (19.3%) stated they are
playing more.
Research Question 2 social connections
RQ2 sought to examine how COVID-19 has aected social connections both related to
pickleball and overall. The results show that the COVID-19 restrictions have lowered
their pickleball specic social connections with 77.78% (n= 28) socializing less and
Table 1. Demographic characteristics of the sample.
Variable N%
Gender identity
Male 20 55.6
Female 16 44.4
Age
6569 15 41.7
7074 15 41.7
7581 6 16.6
Race
White 34 94.4
African American 1 2.8
Asian 1 2.8
Education
Some college or Associate degree in college (2-year) 6 16.6
Bachelors degree in college (4-year) 15 41.7
Graduate or professional degree 15 41.7
Marital status
Married 27 75.0
Widowed 2 5.6
Divorced/Separated 7 19.5
WORLD LEISURE JOURNAL 9
only 5.56% (n= 2) more. As for socialization overall, the data was more worrisome, with
88.89% (n= 32) socializing less and no participants reported socializing more.
Research Question 3 psychological well-being
RQ3 assessed how the participantsperceptions of physical health, mental health, lone-
liness, and life satisfaction have changed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Table 3
shows the mean scores of the scales based on assessment pre-COVID and in the
follow-up-survey. While there were no signicant dierences in perceived physical
health, there were signicant dierences (p< .05) in all other constructs. The results
show that participants reported signicantly lower mental health, higher loneliness,
and lower life satisfaction. Table 4 shows the Pearson correlations matrix examining
how much COVID-19 has changed pickleball playing frequency and pickleball-specic
social connections related to dierences in perceptions of physical health, mental
health, loneliness, and life satisfaction. The results indicate that those who played pickle-
ball less frequently during the COVID-19 pandemic reported a greater dierence score in
life satisfaction (i.e. those who are playing less had lowered life satisfaction scores). There
were no signicant correlations between social connections and the well-being con-
structs. An examination between the well-being constructs found signicant correlations
between mental health, loneliness, and life satisfaction.
Discussion
This study examined how the COVID-19 pandemic has changed physical activity levels,
social connections, and mental health of seniors who were active pickleball players. The
results provide evidence that the COVID-19 restrictions have limited where and how
seniors get physical activity, but many are still active despite limited participation
Table 2. Activity changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Activity A lot less
Somewhat
less
About the
same
Somewhat
more
A lot
more N
Outdoor physical activity/sport 22.22% 30.56% 16.67% 16.67% 13.89% 36
Indoor physical activity/sport 82.86% 8.57% 0.00% 2.86% 5.71% 35
Walking 8.57% 14.29% 45.71% 22.86% 8.57% 35
Chores 3.03% 9.09% 69.70% 15.15% 3.03% 33
Watch TV, use computer, use social
media
0.00% 8.57% 42.86% 34.29% 14.29% 35
Table 3. Comparisons of psychological measures from initial and follow-up.
Variable Mean NSD Std. Error Mean tSig.
Physical health Initial 48.99 36 3.64 0.61 0.78 0.44
Follow-up 48.07 36 6.65 1.11
Mental health Initial 56.00 36 4.05 0.68 2.43 0.02
Follow-up 52.75 36 7.10 1.18
Loneliness Initial 1.69 35 0.58 0.10 2.91 0.01
Follow-up 2.07 35 0.60 0.10
Life satisfaction Initial 5.72 35 0.87 0.15 2.83 0.01
Follow-up 5.09 35 1.04 0.18
Note: Scale ranges. Physical Health & Mental Health. 0100; Loneliness, 14; Life Satisfaction, 17.
10 J. M. CASPER ET AL.
opportunities. The participants reported a dramatic decrease in social connections both
associated with pickleball and in their overall daily life. While their perceptions of phys-
ical health have been stable throughout the pandemic, their perceptions of well-being
were found to have signicantly changed since the pandemic began through decreased
mental health, increased loneliness, and lowered life satisfaction. The role of playing
pickleball does not seem to relate to three of the four well-being indicators, but a signi-
cant association between life satisfaction and continued pickleball playing frequency was
found. This discussion will focus on major ndings from each of the research questions.
The rst major nding is that the seniors in this study are continuing to play and still
meeting CDC PA guidelines (CDC, 2018) guidelines of 60 min of moderate or vigorous
activity 3 or more days a week. While not unexpected, the pandemic has dramatically
lowered physical activity opportunities. Consistent with Goethals et al. (2020), the data
from this study focusing on changes since COVID-19 indicate that outdoor physical activity
has decreased by nearly half, but the closureof indoor facilities prohibited any opportunity to
engage in indoor activity. The seniors in this study seem to have shown some exibility, in
that when certain physicalactivity opportunities were limited, they sought out other oppor-
tunities. The participantslowered physical activity seems to have been replaced by active
outside recreation, such as hiking or walking. And while nearly half of the sample reported
more physical inactivity, a majority are still able to meet the CDC (2018)guidelinesof3or
more days a week where they are moderately or vigorously active for at least 60 min.
The pandemic has not stopped the seniors in this study from continuing sport. A
majority of the participants are still playing pickleball, albeit outdoors and in smaller
groups. During the rst data collection, all participants were playing inside at city recrea-
tion centres. While there are public pickleball courts, there are not as many outdoor
facilities, leading to less court availability and the sport being weather dependent.
Additional city restrictions recommended singles-only play and gathering in groups of
10-or more was prohibited, leading to less facility availability and reduced participation.
A second major nding was that COVID-19 restrictions signicantly aected peoples
psychological well-being. Our data supports prior evidence that COVID-19 restrictions
impact psychological well-being (Blazer, 2020; Sepulveda-Loyala et al., 2020) as partici-
pants reported signicantly lower mental health, higher loneliness, and lower life satis-
faction. What is somewhat promising for the participants in our study is that they had
an overall positive psychological state, and the detrimental eects of restrictions, while
signicant, did not create serious concern about their overall psychological state. This
supports research by Baltes and Smith (2003) who found that older adults maintain a
positive state of well-being, and changes in mental health tend to show more stability.
Table 4. Means, standard deviations, and Pearson Correlation Matrix on how much COVID-19 has
aected pickleball playing/social connections, and psychological construct dierences Scores (n= 36).
Variable/construct Mean SD 1 2 3 4 5
1. Pickleball playing frequency 2.33 1.22
2. Pickleball social connections 1.78 0.93 .55**
3. Physical health dierence 0.93 7.17 0.11 0.10
4. Mental health dierence 3.25 8.12 0.22 0.08 0.31
5. Loneliness dierence 0.38 0.77 0.19 0.05 0.19 0.58**
6. Life satisfaction dierence 0.63 1.31 0.32* 0.15 0.23 0.56* 0.36*
Note: * p< .05; ** p< .01.
WORLD LEISURE JOURNAL 11
The third major nding was that the participants playing less pickleball report signi-
cantly lower life-satisfaction. Past research suggests that physical activity engagement is
an important protective factor against declines in the various facets of well-being (Kwag
et al., 2011). It is also theorized that changes in life satisfaction are predicted by declines
in physical health, social support, and activity engagement (Heo et al., 2013). From a
sport participation perspective, our study supports that not being able to play pickleball
was signicantly correlated to lower life satisfaction. This nding is relevant in that par-
ticipation in sport has been found to be linked with self-identity (Cohen-Manseld et al.,
2013), so those who internalized pickleball as an important part of their life may feel less
positive, and overall life satisfaction was impacted due to the restrictions that prevented
them from pickleball participation.
Finally, our data supports the ndings of Williams et al. (2021) and Goethals et al.
(2020) that COVID-19 restrictions have impacted leisure-time social engagement. Our
data indicates that social connections specic to pickleball have declined since the pan-
demic began. The pandemic restrictions prohibited open play and large group gather-
ings, so a reduction in socializing associated with pickleball is not a surprise. Of major
concern for seniors with reduced socialization are loneliness and feelings of isolation
(National Institute of Aging, 2019). Our data did not nd a signicant correlation
between reduced pickleball connections and health outcomes, which is contrary to
theory (Kim et al., 2017,2021). This may be due to many playing less but still playing,
so some social connections have remained intact. Additionally, the pre-COVID survey
found that the participants had many social connections established through pickleball,
and these existing, while lessened, relationships may have helped buer against signi-
cant dierences in feelings of loneliness or other facets of well-being (English & Carsten-
sen, 2014).
Limitations
This study was able to capitalize on existing data regarding seniors who completed a
survey on pickleball participation and psychological well-being less than one month
before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down indoor recreation centres where they
played. This study served as a natural experiment at an opportune time in which the par-
ticipants were able to be re-surveyed during COVID-19 restrictions, so we were able to
collect panel data with a high response rate. While we were able to re-survey nearly all
participants, this study had a limited sample size that limited the analysis (e.g. no seg-
mentation analysis). Furthermore, additional sample limitations include a lack of
racial diversity. This is important, as studies showed that Black older adults were the
most vulnerable and were most profoundly impacted during the COVID-19 pandemic
(e.g. Chatters et al., 2020). Additionally, as there was no control group for comparisons,
we were not able to isolate how participation and social connections made through pick-
leball relate to psychological well-being.
Conclusion
This study found that COVID-19 and the related restrictions have impacted seniors
physical activity, social connections, and psychological well-being. While our results
12 J. M. CASPER ET AL.
show that there is a spill over in maintaining physical activity and continued sport par-
ticipation, lowered overall participation seems to relate to lower life satisfaction. As Son
et al. (2021) point out, it is important for older adults to stay physically and mentally
healthy. As the threat of future pandemics increases (Sheahan & Frieman, 2020), it
may be important for leisure providers to strategically plan for the safe use of facilities
and amenities to ensure that the psychological and physical health benets are main-
tained for those who want to continue to participate. This may include leisure providers
following their countriesnational public health guidelines (e.g. in the United States, the
recent CDC Physical Activity, Sport and Recreation guidelines; CDC, 2020b) and adapt
the guidelines of various national organizations, such as the recent guidelines proposed
by the National Recreation & Parks Association (2020) or the Aspen Institutes COVID-
10 risk assessment tool (2020).
Leisure providers could also strategically think through helping participants keep con-
nected through other safe outdoor leisure experiences such as walking or virtual physical
activity opportunities such as a virtual walking challenge. Data collected during the pan-
demic (e.g. Ng et al., 2021) in retirement communities highlighted how these alternate
activities helped seniors maintain connections when their regular activities were shut
down. Finally, the pandemic provided a window of opportunity for leisure providers
across the world to advocate for outdoor spaces as it raised the importance of outdoor
public spaces and parks to peoples wellbeing and health. Working collaboratively with
local governments and key stakeholder groups (e.g. Levinger et al., 2021) will be critical
to ensure more people, including seniors have access to physical activity spaces.
Disclosure statement
No potential conict of interest was reported by the author(s).
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WORLD LEISURE JOURNAL 17
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Background The physical environment has been shown to have a positive effect on the promotion of physical activity of older people. Outdoor environments that incorporate specialised exercise equipment suitable for older people are uniquely placed to promote physical activity and social connectedness amongst older people. The ENJOY project included the installation of specialised outdoor exercise equipment (the Seniors Exercise Park) and the delivery of a physical and social activity program for older people as part of a prospective pre-post research design. The installation of the specialised equipment in public sites and an aged care facility was also aimed at increasing usage of the equipment by older people from the wider community and to increase physical and social activities. Method A conceptual framework for implementation and several engagement methods were utilised to guide the research and to support the participating partners throughout the project. This paper is a reflective narrative describing the collaborative process and approach utilised to engage local governments and community, and reports the challenges and the lessons learnt to inform future strategies for implementation. Results The conceptual framework for the implementation process that guided the conduct and delivery of the ENJOY project included the core elements of the Interactive Systems Framework and the ecologic framework. These models incorporate elements of research-to-practice and community-centred implementation to accommodate the unique perspectives of a range of stakeholders. Conclusion Partner characteristics such as local governments’ structure and policy as well as community factors can impact on implementation. Partnership with local governments with effective communication, strategic planning and community and seniors engagement approaches are recommended for successful implementation. The lessons learnt can further assist public health research design around changes to the built environment to positively impact on older people’s physical activity levels. Trial registration Trial registration number ACTRN12618001727235. Date of registration 19th October 2018, https://www.anzctr.org.au/Trial/Registration/TrialReview.aspx?id=375979
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Purpose The study was to examine county-level associations of physical activity with COVID-19 cases and deaths, per 100,000 county residents. Methods Data were collected from publicly available data sources for 3142 counties and equivalents, including the District of Columbia. Subjective health ratings, percentage uninsured, percentage unemployed, median household income, percentage female residents, percentage White residents, percentage of residents age 65 or older, and rural designation served as controls. Results The two-level random intercept regression showed that physical activity rates at the county level were statistically and negatively associated with COVID-19 cases and deaths. Additional analyses showed that physical activity rates moderated the relationship between cases and deaths, such that the relationship was strongest when physical activity rates were low. Conclusion The results presented here offer empirical evidence of the benefits of county-level physical activity during a pandemic. Implications for public health and physical activity provision are discussed.
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Background A significant proportion of the worldwide population is at risk of social isolation and loneliness as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. We aimed to identify effective interventions to reduce social isolation and loneliness that are compatible with COVID-19 shielding and social distancing measures. Methods and findings In this rapid systematic review, we searched six electronic databases (Medline, Embase, Web of Science, PsycINFO, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews and SCOPUS) from inception to April 2020 for systematic reviews appraising interventions for loneliness and/or social isolation. Primary studies from those reviews were eligible if they included: 1) participants in a non-hospital setting; 2) interventions to reduce social isolation and/or loneliness that would be feasible during COVID-19 shielding measures; 3) a relevant control group; and 4) quantitative measures of social isolation, social support or loneliness. At least two authors independently screened studies, extracted data, and assessed risk of bias using the Downs and Black checklist. Study registration: PROSPERO CRD42020178654. We identified 45 RCTs and 13 non-randomised controlled trials; none were conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic. The nature, type, and potential effectiveness of interventions varied greatly. Effective interventions for loneliness include psychological therapies such as mindfulness, lessons on friendship, robotic pets, and social facilitation software. Few interventions improved social isolation. Overall, 37 of 58 studies were of “Fair” quality, as measured by the Downs & Black checklist. The main study limitations identified were the inclusion of studies of variable quality; the applicability of our findings to the entire population; and the current poor understanding of the types of loneliness and isolation experienced by different groups affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Conclusions Many effective interventions involved cognitive or educational components, or facilitated communication between peers. These interventions may require minor modifications to align with COVID-19 shielding/social distancing measures. Future high-quality randomised controlled trials conducted under shielding/social distancing constraints are urgently needed.
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Objectives To review the impact of social isolation during COVID-19 pandemic on mental and physical health of older people and the recommendations for patients, caregivers and health professionals.DesignNarrative review.SettingNon-institutionalized community-living people.Participants20.069 individuals from ten descriptive cross-sectional papers.MeasurementsArticles since 2019 to 2020 published on Pubmed, Scielo and Google Scholar databases with the following MeSh terms (‘COVID-19’, ‘coronavirus’, ‘aging’, ‘older people’, ‘elderly’, ‘social isolation’ and ‘quarantine’) in English, Spanish or Portuguese were included. The studies not including people over 60 were excluded. Guidelines, recommendations, and update documents from different international organizations related to mental and physical activity were also analysed.Results41 documents have been included in this narrative review, involving a total of 20.069 individuals (58% women), from Asia, Europe and America. 31 articles included recommendations and 10 addressed the impact of social distancing on mental or physical health. The main outcomes reported were anxiety, depression, poor sleep quality and physical inactivity during the isolation period. Cognitive strategies and increasing physical activity levels using apps, online videos, telehealth, are the main international recommendations.Conclusion Mental and physical health in older people are negatively affected during the social distancing for COVID-19. Therefore, a multicomponent program with exercise and psychological strategies are highly recommended for this population during the confinement. Future investigations are necessary in this field.
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Background: The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted communities across the world. Government responses, of promoting 'social distancing' at a population level, and 'self-isolation' of older adults to mitigate its spread have been unprecedented. Despite the importance of these Public Health and Social Measures (PHSM), they present challenges to maintaining a physically active lifestyle, particularly for older adults. Context: The importance of physical activity (PA) for health is well documented. There is strong evidence that PA in later life reduces the risk of disease, helps to manage existing conditions, and develops and maintains physical and mental function. Staying physically active is particularly important for older adults currently. Implications and recommendations: Research suggests that PHSM have already reduced levels of PA for older adults during the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior to COVID-19 many older adults were not engaging in enough PA to attain health benefits. Evidence indicates that there will be an increase in the number of older adults not meeting guidelines for PA due to the impacts of COVID-19. This has implications for population health and public health policy. How to support older adults to remain physically active during and after the COVID-19 crisis will require careful consideration. Going forward it is imperative that policy and practice support all older adults to achieve the recommended levels of PA to ensure that they are not disadvantaged in the short- but also in the longer term by the impact of COVID-19.
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Background: The lockdown and social distancing caused by COVID-19 may influence common health behavior. The unprecedent worldwide confinement, in which Spain has been one of the most affected-with severe rules governing confinement-may have changed physical activity (PA) and sedentary habits due to prolonged stays at home. Purpose: The aim of this study is to evaluate how self-reported PA and sedentary time (ST) have changed during confinement in the Spanish population. Methods: 3800 healthy adults (age 18-64 years) residing in Spain answered the international physical activity questionnaire short (IPAQ-S) twice between 23 March and 1 April (confinement). Data analysis was carried out taking into consideration meeting general PA recommendations before confinement, age and gender. Results: Self-reported PA decreased significantly during confinement in our sample. Vigorous physical activities (VPA) and walking time decreased by 16.8% (p < 0.001) and 58.2% (p < 0.001), respectively, whereas ST increased by 23.8% (p < 0.001). The percent of people fulfilling the 75 min/week of VPA recommendation decreased by 10.7% (p < 0.001) while the percent of people who reached 150 min/week of moderate activity barely changed (1.4%). The group that performed the most VPA before confinement showed the greatest decrease (30.5%, p < 0.001). Men reduced time in VPA more than women (21% vs 9%, respectively) who even increased time in moderate PA by 11% (p < 0.05) and reported less increase in ST than men (35% vs 25.3%, respectively). Conclusion: The Spanish adult population, especially young people, students and very active men, decreased daily self-reported PA and increased ST during COVID-19 confinement.
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Objective To explore physical activity changes and participation among physically active older adults living in retirement villages during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Methods Semi-structured interviews were conducted over the telephone. The interviews were recorded and transcribed verbatim. Reflexive thematic analysis was conducted. Results Seventeen older adults were interviewed, and they engaged in many types of physical activity before the COVID-19 lockdown. During the COVID-19 lockdown, the most common physical activity that older adults participated in was walking. Mental well-being and socialisation were affected during the lockdown, with older adults employing several strategies to help them cope. Conclusions During the COVID-19 pandemic, physically active residents of retirement villages maintained their physical activity, but with reduced intensity and variety. In some cases, this impacted their mental and physical health. Physical activity resources aimed at facilitating diverse and sufficiently intense physical activity may benefit this group, and others.
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The concept of “double jeopardy”—being both older and Black—describes how racism and ageism together shape higher risks for coronavirus exposure, COVID-19 disease, and poor health outcomes for older Black adults. Black people and older adults are the two groups most affected by COVID-19 morbidity and mortality. Double jeopardy, as a race- and age-informed analysis, demonstrates how Black race and older age are associated with practices and policies that shape key life circumstances (e.g., racial residential segregation, family and household composition) and resources in ways that embody elevated risk for COVID-19. The concept of double jeopardy underscores long-standing race- and age-based inequities and social vulnerabilities that produce devastating COVID-19 related deaths and injuries for older Black adults. Developing policies and actions that address race- and age-based inequities and social vulnerabilities can lower risks and enhance protective factors to ensure the health of older Black Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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Objectives The novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has forced nationwide lockdowns in many countries. As a result, most of the Spanish population had to self-isolate at home. The physical and psychological consequences of this unexpected scenario could be particularly worrisome for people older than 60 years. This study is aimed to examine the psychological well-being of older adults during the home isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic and to investigate whether meeting the World Health Organization's global recommendations on physical activity (PA) for health is associated with their resilience, affect, and depressive symptoms. Design, setting, and participants In this cross-sectional study, a total of 483 citizens whose ages ranged from 60 to 92 years (overall sample: M=65.49, SD=5.14) were recruited via a snowball sampling strategy to answer to an online questionnaire. Measurements The four instruments used were The Connor-Davidson CD-RISC resilience scale, The Positive and Negative Affect Schedule, the six-item self-report scale of Depressive Symptoms, and The international Physical Activity Questionnaire. Results Results showed that older adults who regularly engaged in vigorous (VPA) and moderate-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) during the quarantine reported higher scores in resilience (Locus, Self-efficacy, and Optimism), positive affect, and lower in depressive symptoms. Conclusion These finding are the first quantitative evidence pointing toward a link between engagement in VPA and/or MVPA and resilience, positive affect, and depressive symptoms within the COVID-19 restrictions in Spain. Acknowledging these associations may be important in developing health promotion programs for older people during the remaining period of confinement or future ones.
Article
Objectives: We examined whether social isolation due to the COVID-19 shelter-in-place orders was associated with greater loneliness and depression for older adults, and, if so, whether declines in social engagement or relationship strength moderated that relationship. Method: Between April 21-May 21, 2020, 93 older adults in the United States who had completed measures characterizing their personal social networks, subjective loneliness, and depression six to nine months prior to the pandemic completed the same measures via phone interview, as well as questions about the impact of the pandemic on their social relationships. Results: Older adults reported higher depression and greater loneliness following the onset of the pandemic. Loneliness positively predicted depression. Perceived relationship strength, but not social engagement, moderated this relationship such that loneliness only predicted depression for individuals who became closer to their networks during the pandemic. For those who felt less close, depression was higher irrespective of loneliness. Discussion: The COVID-19 pandemic negatively impacted older adults' mental health and social well-being in the short-term. Potential long-term impacts are considered.