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Introduction Continuity, theory and, to a lesser degree, activity theory are widely used to explain and predict leisure activities and social patterns of older adults. These theories, however, have limitations which hinder their ability to predict behavior accurately. Two theories based on Lifespan Development Psychology, selection, optimization, and compensation (SOC) and socioemotional selectivity, are increasingly used in gerontology, human development, and psychology to study older adults' behavior (Baltes, 2003; Baltes & Carstensen, 1999; Lawton & Schaie 1991; Schaie & Willis, 2002) and appear to provide guidance for refining leisure research. Both theories predict successful aging when the investment of resources (e.g. time or energy) is maintained or altered in desirable ways. SOC theory predicts that people who age successfully employ three basic strategies: (1) selection, (2) optimization, and (3) compensation. Selection refers to identifying and reprioritizing goals, optimization refers to maximizing performance, and compensation refers to adapting to current or anticipated limitations. Socioemotional selectivity theory predicts that, as perceived time left diminishes, people discard peripheral relationships and focus on important ones, such as those with close family members and friends. Despite an overall decline in the number of relationships, this process appears to be positively related to affective well-being in older adults and may even promote it by enabling them to focus their limited time and energy on relationships that are most beneficial while avoiding those that are inconsequential or detrimental. A growing body of research exists to support SOC and socioemotional selectivity theories and they appear to be broadly generalizable. While they have been used to study leisure behavior in only a few instances, the theories appear to be relevant. In particular, SOC and socioemotional selectivity may be used in conjunction with or in place of continuity and activity theories. Doing so will require leisure researchers to consider the mechanisms that older adults use to adapt to changes in later life and their sources of social support.

June 22
National Recreation and Park Association
The Gale Group, Inc., a Delaware corporation and an affiliate of Cengage Learning, Inc.

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