Participation in sports has long been linked to various aspects of health, including social, psychological, and physical well-being. However, less has been explored on how this link between sport and well-being applies to individuals living with dementia. In order to address this gap in research, a study that won a Bronze 2022 Innovative Research on Aging Award explored how one sport in particular—golf—could enhance the psychological and social well-being of individuals with dementia.
To examine the impact of golf on this population, researchers recruited 10 individuals with dementia, five caretakers, and three golf club staff to participate in a six-week, video-recorded golf program. Using the video data of the sessions to inform some of their questions, researchers conducted focus groups on the participants (including the caretakers and staff) in order to determine their reactions to the golf program and to analyze how the program may have impacted their well-being. Through thematic analysis, researchers identified many common themes related to well-being throughout these focus groups, including positive emotional states, respite, losing the “dementia” label, friendship/camaraderie, and the potential to improve relationships. Many of these benefits applied not only to the individuals with dementia but also to the caretakers and golf club staff.
This was the first known study to examine the relationship between golf and well-being specifically for individuals with dementia. Given the novelty of this research and the small group of participants, more studies are needed to further explore the impact of golf on well-being both for individuals with dementia and for the older adult population at large. Still, this preliminary research demonstrates that golf may be one possible avenue to aging well.
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Hill, N., Fihosy, S., & Camic, P. M. (2021). Exploring the effects of a golf program on psychological and social wellbeing for people with dementia, carers, and staff. Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, 30(1), 123–135. https://doi.org/10.1123/japa.2020-0513