Name of the Project



01/10/2012 - 31/12/2015

Coordinating Institution, Country

Institute of Leisure Studies, Faculty of Social and Human Sciences, University of Deusto (Spain)

Participating Institutions, Countries

Institute of Leisure Studies, Faculty of Social and Human Sciences, University of Deusto (Spain)

Name of the call

MINISTRY OF ECONOMICS AND COMPETITIVENESS NATIONAL PLAN OF R&D 2008-2011 Sub-program of Fundamental Research Projects


There are three main reasons to carry out this research:
- Scientific reason: The concept 'valuable experiential leisure' is innovative in the Leisure Studies of the 21st Century. It is a necessary theoretical development, given the new challenges that the contemporary society presents ('senior' typology, healthy leisure, active aging, etc.). That is why we need to develop new tools that will prove that leisure is not just an essential argument of quality of life but an experiential dimension that requires specific care, education and attention along human existence.
- Social reason: Considering the challenge of the progressive aging of the population and the new demographical, work-related and technological realities, those directly involved in social-educative intervention ask for action guidelines to be created from the conclusions resulted from the comparative study of the life trajectory of those 'seniors' for whom 'serious leisure' has meant a driving force of personal development, both physically and intellectually.

- Formative reason: Education inspires all the sequence of our project, from its inicial theoretical aspects, dedicated to consolidate the concept of valuable experiential leisure, to its intervention guidelines aimed at social professionals, going through the consecutive phases of the empirical study, both at a quantitative and qualitative level. Quantitative, see methodology: draft questionnaire with previous experts advice + validation + pre-test + application + analysis, preparation and discussion of results. Qualitative, see methodology: discrimination of good practices + selected groups of discussion + deep study of cases + analysis and preparation.
The starting hypothesis that holds the objectives of this project is the following: 'Valuable experiential leisure' requires attention and guarantees along all stages of a person's life. To create formative guidelines that will allow the different social agents to intervene in its promotion, we believe that it is essential to develop a practical and innovative tool: The reconstruction of itineraries of 'serious leisure' in older people who, by their representative and extrapolated character, reveal which have been the factors and concurrent processes in the consolidation of such 'healthy leisure'.

We could, therefore, formulate our guiding hypothesis as follows:

  • We consider that valuable leisure itineraries along life contribute positively to personal well-being;
  • We believe that people who have developed a hobby in a balanced way, having this way a coherent trajectory during which they have overcome barriers and have got involved with a series of activities of vital significance. That led to a more autonomous and participative social attitude. These people will score higher in the development and personal well-being's scales.
  • We also believe that reconstructing their stories from their leisure itineraries, we will be able to detect which were the factors that favored the perception of valuable leisure as a decisive contribution to their personal well-being. We would like to verify in a qualitative way the hyphothesis that we consider innovative: The effect of valuable experiential leisure itineraries on personal well-being, one of the focal points on which the policies of satisfactory aging of the 21st Century have to work on.
  • We believe that intergenerational solidarity is one of the values that can help to transfer to the current youth the educative proposals created from the analysis of the stories of the third age population.


The closer purpose of this project is to define and promote education on valuable experiential leisure. In order to do so, it is necessary to detect and analyze different patterns of leisure, testing which is the relationship of each one of them with 'serious leisure' (concept of previous researchs of our team, Cuenca, 2000, 2004, 2006; Monteagudo, 2008). 'Valuable experiential leisure' is the one that becomes a factor of positive personal development, which is one of the focal points of scientific literature and important institutional manifestos (Sagy, Antonovsky & Adler, 1990; Cuenca, 2000; Csikszentmihalyi, Cuenca, Buarque, Trigo et al., 2000; Setién, 2000; World Health Organization, 2002; San Salvador del Valle, 2008).
It is an innovative perspective that allows the dynamic analysis of leisure's integral experience, in the light of personal trajectories which temporal arch is defined by a series of practices to take roots, consolidate, enrich or replace those practices that have brought a positive meaning and motivation to their life cycles, both in the physical and intellectual and also social spheres (dealing with barriers, enriching their social world, resisting depression, contributing to self-fulfillment and individual and/or group achivement, etc.).
We will find different profiles in the population, depeding on if they perceive or not a positive relationship between their leisure activities and their personal well-being. It is important for us to focus on the perceived level of well-being, overcoming the standardized models of 'quality of life' that neglect relevant aspects of subjectivity.
Among the individuals that score higher in the leisure and well-being questionnaires, we will find different patterns: we are specially interested in those groups of the population that, apart from perceiving the positive effect of leisure on their personal well-being, have also been persistent in developing an activity specially significant to them along their lives. The concept of 'leisure itineraries' is made up of the collection of the promoting factors of this practice, the psycho-social resources necessary to overcome barriers and dominate the environment and the active participation in a community.
The reconstruction of these itineraries in the research's qualitative phase will allow us to discover which are the keys for a valuable experiential leisure. Our model shows that valuable experiential leisure conciliates in a balanced way the specialized practice of one or several activities with a 'periphery' of more ephemeral or casual practices. We do not focus just on 'activism' but on the capacity of giving to the person the resources that will transform his/her activity in a valuable experience for his/her personal self-fulfillment and social new meaning.
Our hypothesis defends that those people with a valuable leisure, developed along their lives and also with a balanced periphery of more informal practices, perceive a more intense and positive correlation between leisure and well-being. Our proposal is to defend that the following is an emerging indicator or satisfactory aging: The scales of personal well-being thanks to a valuable leisure itinerary indicate that there is an enrichment in the social world of the practicing people and the discovery of a new meaning for the role of the third age in citizenship's practices and developing skills to overcome daily barriers.
Therefore, our aim is not to study the practice of leisure activities but the itineraries of deep-rooted leisure along life, creating habits and processes of formative development. The benefits are not just physical and mental, they also help the individual to achieve a more complete and satisfactory social projection, giving a new meaning to his/her capacity to participate in the community. In fact, our working hypothesis is highly innovative because it gives value to a type of leisure which concept is avant-gardist: the selected life trajectories will represent the development of leisure activities with balance between casual leisure and serious leisure (Stebbins terminology). Developing only casual leisure practices can led to a dilettantism without strong motivations, and developing only serious leisure practices can led to disrupted lifestyles, closed to personal development.