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Types Of Leisure Activities, The Portent Of Leisure

Leisure is one facet of the quest for meaning that continues throughout life. From earliest cognition to dying breath, meaningful engagement and self-validation appear to be enduring attractors. Two trends speak to the probable importance of leisure. During the course of the twentieth century, there was a vast expansion in access to leisure. At the same time, social demographic changes already apparent—extensions of life expectancy, improving health status, and economic currents altering the nature of work and retirement—also speak to leisure's prospect. It is not too much to assert that leisure lifestyles have become a way of life for many segments of the population.

No doubt a great deal of significance and satisfaction is derived from work-related or familial activities, but leisure also provides highly nuanced opportunities to express, explore, and confirm personal agency, identity, membership affirmation, and life stage. Over the course of life the primacy of most roles shifts and shifts again, transforming as perspectives change as new agendas emerge. What is considered significant at one point may be of lesser importance at another, replaced by priorities previously either nonexistent or relegated to the periphery. With the progression through the adult years, several such changes are possible and in each instance the meaning of leisure may be redefined.

In characterizing leisure as a cradle of meaning and as a significant realm of social engagement and participation, it is important to view it as more than simply activity or time left over from other obligations. Early analysts often spoke of leisure as a residual category: the converse of work, a period of recuperation, or time to be filled after work was done. No doubt such a perspective is valid, in part, but leisure is also an independent domain subject to many of the same forces that shape the rest of the life course. If changes in the way work is performed come to pass and patterns of lifelong employment built on explicit career ladders become less prevalent, then the delineation of socially defined passages previously provided by work will also diminish. If so, alternative sources of meaning may emerge, based on what they can contribute to normative definitions of age, structuring of the life course, and personal identity (Han and Moen).

Among the ramifications of the globalization of production and accompanying economic transformation is that the relative salience consigned to productive roles and other realms of activity may be adjusted under certain emerging scenarios. Specifically, as people find themselves less reliant on their work roles for satisfaction as the structure of the workplace changes, the relative importance of alternative sources of meaning will shift. For example, if internal labor hierarchies are flattened, work is not highly agestructured, retirement occurs earlier or intermittently, or contingent employment akin to spot labor markets becomes the norm, the intrinsic meanings derived from work will be abridged and alternative opportunities for self-agency will be sought (Henretta). Even absent such changes, the subjective value of intrinsic work rewards declines with age (Crimmins and Easterlin), depending on financial wherewithal. In addition, many people never did find significant gratification in what they did to earn a living, or were not active in the world of work in the first place.

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