Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format

Integrated Article


Doctor of Philosophy


Health and Rehabilitation Sciences


Hand, Carri L.


Moving homes is a common experience for older adults in later life. Concomitant with moving is the transition process of adapting to the new home and developing a sense of place. When older adults change residences they experience disruption in place and risk losing identities. Leisure engagement has been known to help older adults adapt to new transitions in their life, such as death of a spouse, health decline and retirement. Leisure engagement has been linked to the development of sense of home and maintaining identity when moving to residential care settings and congregate living, however, these processes are not well understood. To date no literature has focused on the role of leisure in older adults moving to private dwellings. This study focused on the role of leisure in older adults moving to new homes in the context of London, Ontario. This study used an ethnographic approach involving interviews, activity diaries and mental maps. A total of 12 older adults participated in this study. Data were analyzed using holistic content and thematic analysis. The findings were divided into two integrated manuscripts, chapter 4, focusing on how leisure played a role in adapting to new homes during COVID-19 and chapter 5, which focused on negotiating place after moving homes. Chapter 4 describes how older adults used leisure to maintain identity and establish and maintain social connections after moving homes. Chapter 5 describes how the participants negotiated place using leisure differed for older adults who were single and older adults who were married. The findings also revealed that having shared characteristics with others and the tone of the social environment shaped the participants’ leisure engagement after moving to London. Implications for this research include the need for practitioners and policymakers to establish leisure programs that recognize the factors affecting older adults in communities that could challenge their ability to establish a sense of place, such as experiencing a move along with other transitions, such as losing a spouse. The findings also have implications for city planners to develop social spaces for older adults to engage in leisure in their neighbourhoods.

Summary for Lay Audience

Older adults will inevitably experience transitions as they age, such as moving homes, losing a spouse and gaining caregiving responsibilities. Engaging in leisure activities with others has been known to help older adults adjust to these life transitions, as such activities provide support and help to maintain identity. Although there is research suggesting that leisure is linked to helping older adults to adjust to such transitions, there is a gap in how leisure plays a role in older adults moving to private dwellings. This study aimed to identify the role leisure plays and shapes older adults adapting to new homes while experiencing other transitions in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. This study involved interviews, activity diaries and mental maps with 12 older adults who had recently moved to the London community. The study participants discussed how continuing to engage in leisure activities helped them to maintain identity after moving to a new home. They described how building and maintaining social connections through leisure also helped them adjust to their new home and community. When interacting through leisure in their new community, they found that the social environment played a large role in shaping how they were able to participate in leisure activities with others and influenced how they established and maintained social circles. Some were challenged to feel a sense of belonging in leisure groups that were already formed, and others found that differences with others hindered their leisure engagement and chose to find new groups. Other participants found it challenging to engage in leisure after experiencing multiple transitions such as the death of a spouse and moving homes. The findings of this research suggest that community programs need to be more inclusive of older adults who may be newcomers and experiencing other transitions. Additionally, the findings from this research suggests including more interactive spaces in neighbourhoods may help foster socialization and building of new relationships among older adults.