EuroSpeleo 2016 Sessions

Looking seriously at the social landscape of casual leisure: Caving with older rural females in North Yorkshire

Session code: OS8

Oral / Science, Main EuroSpeleo Conference

Dr Helen Hooper


Studies show the importance of socially interactive leisure pursuits in determining healthy older adulthood yet, the social intricacies of active leisure, along with the significant contributions of older females to the rural social landscape, have received little attention. Findings from an ongoing participative study of caving with 10 older females (54 – 82 years) are explored with reference to the theoretical perspectives of social capital, serious leisure and social comparison.

A socially constructed notion of well-being emerged that challenged the consensually validated concept of old age. For the ‘Hardraw Ladies Caving Club’, seizing presented opportunities and completing previously uncontemplated challenges were motivations, sources of satisfaction, and formed the content of socially comparative narratives told to researcher and within the local community. The social support offered by a group of known women also influenced participation and was compared to perceptions of competitiveness and a gendered dynamic if the group had been mixed sex.

Increasing our understanding of the reasons older, rural, females choose to participate in outdoor activities, and their perceptions of benefits, should inform strategies to make such activities more inclusive and to target the under-represented in the form of both older females and rural communities.


Lecturer & researcher at UCLan. Active caver, CIC, living Yorkshire where she runs a bunkhouse/outdoor activity centre with her partner.


Mark Hickman: School of Sport and Wellbeing, University of Central Lancashire PR1 7DR