Prof researching representation of seniors in winter sports

St. Thomas University sociology professor Kristi Allain has received an Insight Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council to conduct a study on how older Canadians can be better represented in winter sports.

“Focusing on the winter sports activities of people in later life allows me to think about how older people have the chance to change dominant notions of Canadian identity,” said Allain.

Allain will be working with Barb Marshall from Trent University and Ryan Rhodes from the University of Victoria for the study. They plan to look at Canadian identity and how older athletes fit into it through winter sport in Canada. The study will be conducted over five years and will take place in Fredericton, Victoria, B.C., and Peterborough, Ont.

“As so much of our population is over the age of 65 years, it is interesting to consider what role their winter sport practices might have in challenging these national celebrations,” said Allain, who has also studied how masculinity in Canadian hockey is understood by those not living in North America.

“I also think that winter sports hold a special place in Canadian cultural identity.”

Allain and her colleagues will be looking at sport policies, media representation and the ways the elderly engage in sport. The study will primarily focus on curling, but will also examine hockey and skiing.

Allain said she’s always had a love for sport and was even an athlete in high school.

“I’ve been researching sport for a long time. I grew up in a family where sport was important. My mother was a big sports fan and I was a competitive athlete when I was in high school,” said Allain.

With this study, they will be looking at Canadian identity and how older athletes fit into it through winter sport in Canada.

“I think that people often overlook the lack of representation in the media of older people,” said Allain.

Allain said when most people think about sports they imagine young, often white, middle-class and heterosexual men.

“I think we forget how exclusive national sports are and what messages we are sending when we celebrate such narrow definitions of gender, age and ability.”

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