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5 abr 2012

Gender relations in the context of physical exercise: a look at the elderly woman

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In the aging process, gender relations generate a weakening of women, leading them to search for identity the relationships contexts developed within their group identification. This study aimed to understand the role of exercise in the life course of elderly women. The study group consisted of ten women, aged over sixty years, engaged in a program of physical activities (gymnastics and weightlifting), offered by the Faculty of Sport, University of Porto.

Autor(es):Dantas, Socorro; Pereira, Ana. Luisa; Santiago, Leonéa
Entidades(es):Sports Faculty, Porto University (FADEUP), Portugal; Federal University of Alagoas (UFAL) – Brazil
Congreso: congreso de la asociación internacional de escuelas superiores de educación física (AIESEP)
Úbeda A Coruña, 26-29 de Octubre de 2010
ISBN: 9788461499465
Palabras claves:elderly; physical activity.

Gender relations in the context of physical exercise: a look at the elderly woman

ABSTRACT

In the aging process, gender relations generate a weakening of women, leading them to search for identity the relationships contexts developed within their group identification. This study aimed to understand the role of exercise in the life course of elderly women. The study group consisted of ten women, aged over sixty years, engaged in a program of physical activities (gymnastics and weightlifting), offered by the Faculty of Sport, University of Porto.

A thematic content analysis of speeches obtained through semi-structured interviews identified the exercise as: a) an alternative to the inertia / isolation, directly related to socialization, b) a contribution to mental health, based on accomplishing of tasks and occupation of time, c) physical fitness, including the improvement of physical boundaries, disease prevention, and facilitating the daily tasks. The results identified the receptivity of the group to engagement in physical activities, the benefits of exercise to emotional balance and self-esteem, which are related to content present in the processes of identity formation,in older women, with the resumption of self-realization and recovery of damages caused by limits determined by gender roles and stigmata of aging.

Introduction

The main problem to categorize the old age is related to the fact that it is not only a status but a subjective process which is always incomplete. From this perspective, we can not say that there is an “old guy” but we can say that there is an “individual aging”. In the aging process, gender relations generate a weakening of women, leading them to the search for identity within the contexts of relationships developed within their group identification. However this problem can acquire different intensities depending on the social situation and the own psychological structure of the individual, because aging is a subjective phenomenon with several influences.

Several studies have been reported the search of knowledge about the interdependencies between social and human aging, namely the impact of the phenomena of aging on the independence of older people (Spirduso, 2005), the family structure (Leite, 2004) , in the economy, the social protection of the state, the rights of the elderly at the time of retirement (Alves, 2004), cultural and sporting practices in relation to time, in the social representations about health, body, and contemporary body (Pereira, 2004; Antonelli, 2007), death and old age (Santiago, 1999).

In a society where the major values are related to productivity, activity and youth, aging diminishes the threat or the greatest sources of personal meaning as work, social status and activities. With the retirement satisfaction with life depends largely on how the person will reorganize the time as a function of activities that improve the quality of life, giving new senses to life.

It is well knowing that decreasing of capacity with aging in men and women is related to environmental conditions – the environment becomes more secure, diversified and interesting; perceived quality of life – a subjective evaluation that each person makes about the own running in any field of behavioural skills, perceived health and psychological well-being. This field reflects the personal assessment on the whole and the dynamics of relations between the areas above (Neri, 2001). As aging is heterogeneous, the quality of life can also vary taking into account the socio-demographic, epidemiological and psychological factor, and so on.

Women and Aging

Quality of life in aging and feminization of old age are phenomena which attract the attention of demographers, social geriatricians and gerontologists. In the research field has been increasing interest in the characterization of the variables related to a good or a poor quality of life in old age, either in the physical, social and psychological as well as the understood of the concept of old age among the population. Within the intervention have been increased the awareness that it is important to identify and to promote conditions that allow the occurrence of an age more elongated and with good quality.

Age, race, social class and gender are some of the categories that shape differences and hierarchy justifying power relations in society, and which play a regulatory role in social relations. For social psychology, the roles of gender are socially constructed and exceed the anatomical markers and the differences between the roles of men and women. They concern expected behaviours for men and women and allow changes at the societies and historical time. The ways that can be lived the old age should be considered, for example, taking into account factors as gender and social class (Debert, 1999). To this must be noted that women from different social classes have different opportunities and aspirations with regard to leisure and academic education. The feminization of old age is also indicated by the relative increase of women who are heads of households, economically active and have a prominent place. Changes of social practices and the increase in life expectancy in relation to men leads women of all classes to live alone. However these variations also depend on personal and group factors.

With the possibility of greater longevity, women are more susceptible to the risks of increasing dependency, isolation and loneliness. So the aging woman means a challenge to society, to the family, and to the woman herself, due to problems that may arise in the economic, political, and social contexts. In this context, the human aging as an issue, has been gaining representation. And there are scientific evidences showing the beneficial effects of an active lifestyle, for the maintenance of functional ability and physical autonomy in the aging process. Currently, a lifestyle with healthy habits is the current discourse. As pointed out by Pereira (2006), the lifestyle is behind the times and cultural practices, which retain a character of choice and taste.

Nowadays, the shift to an active lifestyle is the fundamental purpose to be present in the promotion of healthy aging, maintaining and improving the functional capacity of the elderly, disease prevention, and / or restore health or rehabilitation of those who come to have limited functional capacity. Adopting a healthy lifestyle is the possibility of staying in the environment lived; independently exercise their functions and their social role, and keeping a positive attitude toward the aging process. Thus, there is a scientific and social relevance of investigating the conditions that interfere with the well-being, in senescence and the factors related to quality of life of elderly women in order to create alternatives for action and propose actions and policies in the area health, seeking to meet the demands of an aging population. In this sense, seeking to understand how the elderly woman perceive the contributions of exercise and as it gives the changes in their lives, including attitudes, from the perspective of these contributions, is that this study was developed.

Methodological procedures

This is an exploratory, descriptive and interpretive study. The study group consisted of ten women, aged over sixty years, engaged in a program of physical activities (gymnastics and weightlifting), offered by the Faculty of Sport, University of Porto. The criterion of choice of women was through the availability of those wanting to participate. The contacts were made with participants by telephone and personally. For data collection the semi-structured interview was used, supported by a script that guided the questions. Leaving the interviewee talking openly (Poirier et al, 1999), we sought to explore the testimony of each one, their experiences, beliefs, feelings, and perceptions about the weather and the aging process.

Methodological procedures

This is an exploratory, descriptive and interpretive study. The study group consisted of ten women, aged over sixty years, engaged in a program of physical activities (gymnastics and weightlifting), offered by the Faculty of Sport, University of Porto. The criterion of choice of women was through the availability of those wanting to participate. The contacts were made with participants by telephone and personally. For data collection the semi-structured interview was used, supported by a script that guided the questions. Leaving the interviewee talking openly (Poirier et al, 1999), we sought to explore the testimony of each one, their experiences, beliefs, feelings, and perceptions about the weather and the aging process.

Conclusions

Old age seems to be a time during which individuals will incorporate the changes in the body’s identity. This merger reflects the dominant representations in the family and society, while contributing to the construction of new representations (Santiago Dantas, Brito, Santos Júnior, 2009). This study looked at the current discourse of the interviewees that the role of exercise in this period of life. We found that this group of women have positive attitudes in relation to exercise. It is noticed that there are a number of factors that affect the attitudes of these representations and elderly before the practice of physical activity, but the socialization and health can be understood as the center where all these factors are intersected.

The benefits perceived by them were beyond the gains in health, and are related to important aspects for the individual as the social improvement, increased self-esteem, autonomy, and changes in attitudes toward life. The general mood is changed along with the opportunity to engagement in this group, and this contributes to a greater willingness in carrying out daily tasks. Considering the perceived benefits of physical exercise, we believe that the participation of the elderly woman in a regular activity helps her to stay active and healthy.

Physical activity acts as a counterpoint in the physiological changes that accompany aging. And the exercise group is an intervention model for elderly people because presents effective answers to fundamental questions of aging problem: health which is translated by the reduction of autonomy and social isolation. In this sense it is incumbent on policy makers to create support services, not only health but also socio-cultural and sporting, and facilitate access to these services for elderly, giving opportunities to all.

REFERENCES

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Santiago, L. (2006). Os Valores Orientadores das Práticas Desportivas em Grupos Emergentes da Terceira Idade. In: Pereira, A. L. et al. O DESPORTO ENTRE LUGARES: O lugar das Ciências Humanas para compreensão do Desporto. Porto: Universidade do Porto, Faculdade de Desporto.

Santiago, L.; Dantas, M. S.; Brito A.L.; Santos Júnior, R. M. (2009). Representações do corpo e saúde em idosos: aspecto sócio antropológicos. Anais do XVI Congresso Brasileiro de ciências do Esporte e III Congresso Internacional de Ciências do Esporte. Salvador – Bahia – Brasil.

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