Wales Institute of Social & Economic Research, Data & Methods
Sefydliad Ymchwil Gymdeithasol ac Economaidd, Data a Dulliau Cymru

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Ageing, serious leisure and the contribution of the grey economy

Work Package 4.3

Funder: ESRC

Start date: April 2016

End date: March 2018

Research team

Jesse Heley, Laura Jones (Aberystwyth University) & Paul Milbourne (Cardiff University)


This project will utilise a mixed methods approach, combining a strategic review of existing survey data with ethnographic observation and interviews to make a timely and original contribution to understanding the benefits of ‘serious leisure’ in retirement for the individual and for the wider communities of which they are part.  

In order to address the stipulated research questions, an approach will be employed which blends a strategic review of existing survey data with ethnographic observation and interviews. The setting for the research will be in mid-Wales.

A systematic review of the survey data will last for 3 months, and aims to provide a strong indication of the broader significance of serious leisure in older age in respect to a wide range of activities and geographical areas. Subsequent to the production of this literature review a series of 4 in-depth case studies will be undertaken: one of which will focus on a rural place-based community (Newtown, Powys t.b.c); one of which will focus on the activities of a community of practise (to be confirmed in conjunction with SportWales); and two institutional sites managed by charitable organizations and where volunteers contribute a range of functions (Llanerchaeron Mansion, National Trust, Ceredigion, and the National Botanic Garden of Wales, Carmarthenshire). These case studies have been selected on the basis that they represent a range of spaces (territorial and functional) in which serious leisure is variously engaged with by the over 60s.

Each of the 4 case studies will last for the duration of 5 months, with each researcher taking primary responsibility for the data collection undertaken in 2 sites. This will involve a mixture of participant observation and interviewing, which will provide for a thorough exploration of the informants’ involvement in serious leisure, the purpose of their engagements and value attached to their activities. A detailed fieldwork diary will be maintained, which will incorporate accounts of conversations, surroundings and events, and each researcher will work with participants in creating an audio-visual account of the work being undertaken. In this way the seasonal activities undertaken within each site will be documented and allied to the varied contributions of volunteers.

Research Questions

  • What value do the non-working/ retired over 60s (as an heterogeneous) group attach to, and extract from, serious leisure pursuits as individuals and members of communities of interest?
  • How do the varied trajectories of serious leisure engagements express and institute relations of social class? 
  • What is the value of serious leisure pursuits as part of the social and economic fabric of the communities and localities which play host to these pursuits?


  • 3 x journal articles to international peer review journals (Rural Sociology, Social and Cultural Geography, Leisure Studies 
  • 1 x stakeholder report to be presented to participating organizations. 
  • 2 x stakeholder feedback events 
  • 1 x SLT workshop 
  • 6 x conference presentations 
  • Stakeholder feedback events



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