Recreational Benefits and Constraints of Homosexual Elders in Canada
Recreation and leisure activities are integral parts of a person’s day-to-day life. For the purposes of this paper, recreation and leisure will be defined as something that a person chooses to do when they are not working; that contributes positively to their overall quality of life; that contributes positively to the quality of society and the surrounding people; that make a person feel confident and allow those around them to have positive experiences; and that improve ones physical health. Recreation and leisure cannot be measured; it is simply what makes a person feel enriched. This paper will analyze the recreational activities of homosexual elderly people in Canada. I will explore the benefits and constraints of social, physical, and mental leisurely activities pertaining to gay and lesbian elders.
In Canada, an elder (also known as a senior) is any citizen over the age of 65. In 2005, the number of seniors in Canada reached 4.2 million and their total share of the population reached 13.1%, a very high representation which has only grown since then (Statistics Canada, 2007). Statistics Canada notes that women occupy a higher percentage of all seniors due to a higher life expectancy for women. Geographically, “seniors' share of the population is largest in Saskatchewan (14.8%), Nova Scotia (14.2%) and Prince Edward Island (14.1%) and the smallest in Alberta (10.5%) and Ontario (12.8%),” (Statistics Canada, 2007). Statistics Canada (2007) also notes that the majority of seniors reside in metropolitan areas for the purpose of being near adequate health care.
We will now be taking a closer look at homosexual seniors in Canada. Unfortunately, the exact percentage of homosexual elders in Canada is not known. According to Statistics Canada, the first study to include questions on sexual orientation was conducted in 2003 and only addressed those ages 18-59. For reference, in that survey, 1.2% of people aged 45 to 59 identified himself or herself as gay or lesbian (Statistics Canada, 2007). One study by D’Augelli and Grossman done in 2002 looked at the hardships faced by 416 gay and lesbian seniors (participants ages ranged between 60 and 91). 35% of them were aware of their sexual orientation at age 10 or under, 53% became aware between ages 11 and 20, 8% between ages 21 and 40, and 4% at ages 41 and up (D'Augelli & Grossman, 2002). According to the findings by D’Augelli and Grossman (2002), 74% of participants were retired while the rest were either still working, on disability, or continuing to work after retirement. One of the major issues that this population faces is discrimination, as demonstrated by the lack of socio-demographic information available. Canadian gay and lesbian elders are a highly invisible and hidden population. The issues that exist to this population include discrimination, physical abuse victimization, living in fear, unstable family relationships, secrecy, missed friendship opportunities, substance abuse, and poor emotional support systems. The benefits and constraints of leisure and recreation for this particular subgroup of Canadian citizens will be discussed below.
Recreation and leisure is an especially important aspect to the healing of gay and lesbian seniors. For these elders, growing up with a homosexual nature meant you were discriminated against in a major way. To cope with these circumstances, young homosexual adults took part in harmful physical activities. An article by Newell, Mansell, et al (1985), states that the homosexual life-style practices, including the use of recreational drugs, are the leading cause of reported acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) in homosexual males. While this research was conducted in 1985, it is relevant to this paper because it provides knowledge regarding the history of today’s elders and what they participated in as young adults. Newell, Mansell, et al (1985) note...
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