Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Social Work (DSW)


Social Work


Lyle S. Hallman Faculty of Social Work

First Advisor

Anne Westhues

Advisor Role

Dissertation Supervisor


The purpose of this study was to gain an understanding of the leisure lifestyles of rural older adults and specifically to determine whether a relationship existed among leisure lifestyle, perceived social support, and well-being. Control variables included socio-demographic factors, value of leisure, satisfaction with life domains, length of residency, ethnicity, religion, and personal and structural barriers. The theoretical framework included social exchange theory and social support perspectives. A descriptive correlational research design was utilized and a mail survey questionnaire was developed and distributed to people 55 and older. Rural older adults spent more time on indoor leisure compared to outdoor leisure activities. The majority of older adults perceived leisure activities as providing expressive social support, except from their spouse. In this rural setting men provided more instrumental social support than women. The majority of the sample was found to have a high sense of well-being. The perceived value of leisure appears similar to the concept of social support in that the perception of the value to leisure may be more important than the actual occurrence of leisure activity. Retirement status did not significantly affect leisure activity patterns. Satisfaction was highest in the family domain, followed by the leisure domain, and lowest in the work domain. Personal and structural barriers lowered the leisure lifestyle and well-being for those reporting barriers. Some implications for practice and poliicy reform are presented and discussed. Prevention programs which encourage the utilization of leisure and encourage social interaction, while allowing for the participation of older adults in the processes, is advocated. Social policy reform is needed to address the issues of lower income and housing needs. Health promotion policy and community-based care represent the least intrusive interventions for the maintenance of older adults’ independence and well-being. The concept of mutual aid, as outlined in Epp’s (1986) framework for health promotion, appears to be a possible approach to use in the rural community.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season