In 2015, individuals 65 and older accounted for 13.1% of the population in South Korea, which was a 4.5-fold increase from 1960 (2.9%) and a 1.4-fold increase from 2005 (9.1%) (Statistics Korea, 2015a). The South Korean older adult population is expected to reach 24.3% by 2030 and 40.1% by 2060—one of the fastest rates of older adult population growth among the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development members (Statistics Korea, 2015c). South Korea is currently ranked highest in the national index of aging (Statistics Korea, 2015b). This increase in the older adult population contributes to many problems, such as poverty, illness, loneliness, and loss of roles (Jeong & Lee, 2013). Major causes of lower life satisfaction in older adults include post-retirement income loss and its associated economic difficulty, or social isolation and alienation, lower social functionality due to role loss, and physical functionality loss (Huang, Ji, & Guo, 2015; Toepoel, 2013).
According to a 2014 report by Statistics Korea (2016), older adults accounted for approximately 30% of rural, low-income households. Criteria for a low-income household in South Korea are a minimum cost of living for a single-person household of ₩617,281 per month ($560 per month) (Ministry of Health and Welfare, 2015). Therefore, approximately 30% of older adults who reside in rural areas live on less than ₩617,281 per month. Previous studies have investigated older adult life satisfaction or living quality according to income and have reported that the lower the income, the lower reported life satisfaction in older adults (Clark, D'Ambrosio, & Ghislandi, 2015; Won & Choi, 2013). However, few studies have examined life satisfaction and its influencing factors in rural, low-income older adults.
Life satisfaction is a subjective assessment of an individual's level of satisfaction with his/her life (Jeong & Lee, 2013). Life satisfaction is said to be the ultimate goal of older adults who must adapt to aging and can be used as an indicator of a successful aging process (Chang, Wray, & Lin, 2014; Jeong & Lee, 2013). Older adults' life satisfaction is affected by many factors: sociodemographic (e.g., educational background, age, marital status) (Han & Hong, 2011), physical (e.g., physical health, illness) (Chang & Park, 2012; Won & Choi, 2013), psychological (e.g., loneliness, depression), and social (e.g., religious or leisure activities) (Han & Hong, 2011). Due to the increasing average life expectancy, the degree of older adult social activity participation plays a significant role by adding value to the later life period (Aknin et al., 2013; Rhee & Ha, 2012).
Leisure activity is a life resource that can enhance quality of life by increasing life satisfaction through physical and mental health improvement (Cho, 2014). Leisure activities, such as participating in sports and reading books, may help prevent physical and mental functional decline (Li & Chow, 2013), support daily satisfaction through self-fulfillment (Chang & Park, 2012), and slow the aging process through stable and satisfying daily living (Liechty & Genoe, 2013). Leisure activities allow older adults to escape from the tension of interpersonal relationships in the advanced-age period and relax and restore balance (Toepoel, 2013). Moreover, participation in a leisure activity is hypothesized to aid in the re-socialization of older adults following psychological stability by enhancing recovery resilience, which is the ability to control one's attention and emotional reactions to trivial stress and serious problems in daily life (Lee, Kim, & Yi, 2014). Positive effects of leisure activities on older adults have been identified and supported by others (Havighurst, 1973; Huang et al., 2015; Jeon, 2014; Kaplan, 1960; Lee, Kim, et al., 2014; Ra, An, & Rhee, 2013). Consequently, leisure activity is a significant factor that directly influences older adult life satisfaction.
Leisure activities for older adults in South Korea are categorized into several types: self-development (e.g., culture classes), social (e.g., religious events or volunteering activities), recreational (e.g., playing Go or watching performances), outdoor (e.g., exercise, sports), and passive (e.g., watching television, reading books) (Lee, Lim, et al., 2014; Ra et al., 2013). However, according to the leisure activity status investigation by the Ministry of Health and Welfare in 2014, the leisure activities most preferred by South Korean older adults were resting (90.2%) and watching television (82.4%) (Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs, 2014). Jeong and Lee (2013) investigated the relationship between leisure activity type and life satisfaction in older adults, and found that active leisure activities had a relatively larger effect on life satisfaction than passive leisure activities.
In leisure theory, thoughts and emotions about and motivations for leisure activities affect an individual's leisure practice and influence his/her autonomy or personal choice to pursue a specific leisure activity (Ellis & Witt, 1994; Veblen, 1899; Walker, Deng, & Dieser, 2005). In particular, social interaction is one of the most important factors that affects an individual's intrinsic motivation to participate in a leisure activity. As an intrinsic motivation, leisure competence is the most effective concept to ensure the continued practice of leisure activity (Walker et al., 2005). Competence is the ability of an individual to perform a goal behavior properly (Stephenson & Yorke, 2013). Perceived leisure competence has been understudied as a factor to explain enhanced leisure activity and an increased level of perception of one's abilities (Chang, 2012; Ellis & Witt, 1994). In many studies, leisure competence is an important factor for continued and successful leisure activity participation long-term (Chang, 2012; Kloseck, Crilly, Ellis, & Lammers, 1996; Mancini & Orthner, 1982; Noh, 2005; Yun & Ha, 2010). Therefore, it is worthwhile to examine the degree of leisure competence perceived by older adults and investigate the effect of leisure competence on leisure activity and life satisfaction level to explore possible intervention methods to promote leisure activities for rural, low-income older adults in South Korea.
Most studies on older adult leisure activities have been investigative research studies that examine how older adults use their leisure time (Huang et al., 2015; Li & Chow, 2013), correlation research studies conducted to understand the relationship between older adult leisure activities and a successful aging process (Cho, 2014; Liechty & Genoe, 2013), and policy research or intervention studies that assess the execution of leisure activities by older adults (Hwang, 2015). However, many of these previous studies have examined middle- or upper-class older adult urban dwellers who live near diverse leisure activity facilities.
The current study was therefore performed to understand rural, low-income older adults' leisure competence, leisure activity level, and life satisfaction according to sociodemographic characteristics. In addition, the study sought to identify factors affecting life satisfaction by focusing on older adults' leisure competence and leisure activity levels. The findings contribute to the development of an effective leisure activity stimulation strategy for enhanced life satisfaction of rural, low-income older adults.
The aim of the current study was to understand the relationships among leisure competence, leisure activity level, and life satisfaction in rural, low-income older adults, as well as examine the effects of leisure competence and leisure activity levels on older adult life satisfaction. The specific study goals were: (a) understand the sociodemographic characteristics of rural, low-income older adults, as well as their leisure competence, leisure activity level, and life satisfaction; (b) recognize the differences in leisure competence, leisure activity level, and life satisfaction of rural, low-income older adults according to specific sociodemographic characteristics; (c) determine correlations among leisure competence, leisure activity level, and life satisfaction in rural, low-income older adults; and (d) understand the effects of leisure competence and leisure activity levels on life satisfaction of rural, low-income older adults.
The current study was a descriptive investigation of a rural, low-income older adult population to identify the effect of leisure competence and leisure activity level on life satisfaction.
Participants and Data Collection
Institutional Review Board approval was obtained from Y University prior to data collection. The study examined low-income individuals 65 or older who subsisted on the minimum cost of living (₩617,281 per month, according to the court standard) in a rural area (W City) in South Korea. Participants were asked if they received the basic governmental cost of living support. Those who could read and understand the study purpose and survey questions were selected (with their voluntary consent) to participate. For participant selection, G-power 3.1.2 (Faul, Erdfelder, Buchner, & Lang, 2009) was used. At a significance level p = 0.05 (two-sided test), a test power (1-β) of 0.95, and an effect size of 0.30, the minimum number of participants needed was 134. A total of 140 questionnaires were distributed and all were completed and returned. Three poorly answered or incomplete questionnaires were excluded. The final number of participants included in the study was 137.
For data collection, structured survey questionnaires comprising questions on leisure competence, leisure activity level, life satisfaction, and sociodemographic characteristics were used.
Leisure Competence. Leisure competence was measured with a leisure competence scale, which was a modified and improved version of Ellis and Witt's (1994) Leisure Diagnostic Battery that was previously used by Noh (2005). Subtypes of leisure competence assessment included a total of 15 questions on perceived competence (four questions), emotional competence (four questions), social competence (three questions), and physical competence (four questions). Answers were scored on a 5-point Likert scale ranging from 1 = not at all to 5 = very much so. The total resulting scores ranged between 15 and 75 points. Higher scores indicated a higher perceived leisure competence. In the current study, the scale's instrumental reliability had a Cronbach's alpha of 0.91.
Leisure Activity Level. Based on Jeong and Lee's (2013) leisure activity classification, per-week leisure activity participation hours were investigated in the dimensions of personal interest and art activities (e.g., planting, knitting, watching movies), volunteer and religious activities (e.g., volunteering, attending a church activity or meeting), recreational and community activities (e.g., attending a singing class, visiting and participating in activities at a senior citizen center), sports activities (e.g., playing gateball, dancing, walking, hiking), and passive activities (e.g., watching television, reading the newspaper). Participants with more per-week leisure activity hours demonstrated a higher leisure activity level.
Life Satisfaction. Diener, Emmons, Larsen, and Griffin's (2010) Satisfaction with Life Scale was previously used by Bae and Park (2009), and was modified and improved for use in the current study. This measurement tool comprises five questions on a 7-point Likert scale, with answers ranging from 1 = not at all to 7 = very much so. Scores between 5 and 19 points were categorized as unsatisfied, whereas those from 21 to 35 were classified as satisfied. Higher scores indicated greater life satisfaction. The reliability of the life satisfaction measurement tool was represented by a Cronbach's alpha of 0.88.
Sociodemographic Characteristics. Structured survey questionnaires were used to measure participants' sociodemographic characteristics based on previous studies on factors affecting older adult life satisfaction (Lee, Kim, & Kang, 2011; Rhee & Ha, 2012). The questionnaires had a total of 12 questions on sex, age, presence of a spouse, co-residence status, educational background, perceived health status, and leisure activity pattern (i.e., personal interest and art activities, volunteering and religious activities, recreation and social activities, sports, and passive activities).
The data collection period was from August 2015 to November 2015. Participants were informed about the study's purpose and intention, data confidentiality and anonymity, and their ability to withdraw from study participation at any time. Self-report–style survey questionnaires were distributed to those who consented to participate. A sufficient amount of time was allowed to answer the questionnaire (20 to 30 minutes). For those who had difficulty understanding a question, an investigator read the corresponding question aloud for them and marked their answer.
Two-sided statistical tests were used to evaluate the collected data using PASW version 20.0 at a significance level of 0.05, with the following methods. First, participants' sociodemographic characteristics, leisure competence, leisure activity level, and life satisfaction were analyzed. Second, t tests and analysis of variance were performed to analyze differences in leisure competence, leisure activity level, and life satisfaction according to sociodemographic characteristics. Subsequently, Scheffe's post-hoc test was conducted. Third, Pearson's correlation coefficient was determined to analyze the correlations among rural, low-income older adults' leisure competence, leisure activity level, and life satisfaction. Fourth, an enter method linear multiple regression was used to identify factors of leisure competence and leisure activity level that affect participants' life satisfaction.
Of 137 participants, 107 (78.1%) were female. Participants' mean age was 76.61 years, with the largest group of participants in their 70s (54%), followed by 33.6% in their 80s or older. Seventy-nine participants (57.7%) had no spouse, and 56 (40.9%) lived alone. Eighty-two (59.9%) respondents stated they practiced a religion, and 55 (40.1%) reported no religious affiliation. With regard to educational background, 45 (32.8%) participants had no formal education and 51 (37.2%) reported an elementary school-level education, followed by middle school graduates (19%) and those with a high school education or higher (10.9%). Seventy-three participants (53.3%) reported feeling unhealthy, whereas 64 (46.7%) felt healthy. Participation in passive forms of leisure activities was reported by 76 (55.5%) respondents, whereas participation in personal interest and art activities was reported by 12 (8.8%) participants (Table 1).
General Participant Characteristics and Types of Leisure Activities (N = 137)
Leisure Competence, Leisure Activity Level, and Life Satisfaction
Rural, low-income older adults' average leisure competence was 42.07 (SD = 9.2) of a total score of 75, ranging widely from a low of 26 points to a high of 65 points. Total hours spent performing a leisure activity per week ranged from 3.5 to 79.5 hours, with an average of 30.38 hours (SD = 16.26). Life satisfaction was 18.74 (SD = 6.74) of a total score of 35 (Table 2).
Level of Leisure Competence, Level of Leisure Activities, and Life Satisfaction (N = 137)
Differences in Leisure Competence, Leisure Activity Level, and Life Satisfaction According to Sociodemographic Characteristics
Participants' leisure competence varied significantly according to age (F = 3.81, p = 0.024), religion (t = −3.51, p = 0.001), and perceived health status (t = −3.75, p < 0.001). Participants with a reported religious affiliation were found to have a higher leisure competence than those with no religious affiliation. In addition, those who perceived themselves to be healthy were found to have a higher leisure competence than those who perceived themselves as unhealthy. Leisure competence was higher in women than in men, in those with a spouse than in those without a spouse, and among those who did not live alone, those without an illness, those who practiced a religion, and those who participated in community social activities, but these differences were not statistically significant.
Leisure activity level was found to have statistically significant differences according to perceived health status (t = −2.05, p = 0.043) and leisure activity type. Leisure activity level was also higher in those who perceived themselves to be healthy. Compared with those pursuing personal interest and art activities, the leisure activity level was higher in participants who volunteered and participated in religious, recreation, social, sports, or passive activities.
There were significant differences in participants' life satisfaction depending on religion (t = −3.81, p < 0.001) and perceived health status (t = −4.07, p < 0.001). Those who practiced a religion and perceived themselves to be healthy tended to score higher on life satisfaction. Life satisfaction was also found to be relatively higher in men than in women, in those living with someone else, and in those with a middle school education or higher, but there were no statistically significant differences (Table 3).
Differences in Leisure Competence, Level of Leisure Activities, and Life Satisfaction According to General Characteristics and Types of Leisure Activities (N = 137)
Correlation Among Leisure Competence, Leisure Activity Level, and Life Satisfaction
Leisure activity level showed a positive correlation with leisure competence (r = 0.43, p < 0.001) and a significant positive correlation with life satisfaction (r = 0.44, p < 0.001). Leisure competence also had a significant positive correlation with life satisfaction (r = 0.68, p < 0.001).
Multiple Regression Analyses With Life Satisfaction as a Criterion
Multiple linear regression was conducted to identify the effects of leisure competence and leisure activity level on participants' life satisfaction. As a result, the tolerance limit of the independent variables was 0.82 and the variance inflation factor was 1.23, which was lower than the reference value of 10, indicating no multicollinearity. The Durbin-Watson statistic was 1.73, suggesting there was no auto-correlation among the independent variables.
The regression model found that participants' leisure competence (β = 0.6, t = 8.7, p < 0.001) and leisure activity level (β = 0.18, t = 2.57, p = 0.011) explained 47% of participants' life satisfaction (Table 4).
Multiple Regression Analyses With Life Satisfaction as a Criterion (N = 137)
Leisure is a key factor that influences improvement in older adults' life satisfaction (Lee, Kim, et al., 2014). Previous studies have identified the potential relationship between normal older adults' life satisfaction and leisure activities or the degree of this effect, with an intention to design interventions for enhanced leisure activity (Chang et al., 2014; Li & Chow, 2013). However, these studies have rarely examined the influence of leisure activity on older adults' life satisfaction with consideration of financial status or urban–rural geographical and cultural gaps.
In the current study, 88% of participants were 70 or older, and more than 78% were female. More than 40% lived alone and approximately 33% had not received a formal education. Most participants (93%) reported an illness at the time of the study, and more than 53% said they felt unhealthy. These sociodemographic characteristics are similar to those of the participants in Beon, Lee, and Na's (2013) study, which compared the sociodemographic characteristics of South Korean older adults in urban and rural areas. These results illustrate the poor conditions (including a low educational background and poor health status) facing older adults who live in rural areas.
Passive activities made up the largest share (55.5%) of participants' leisure activities, followed by recreation and social activities (13.1%), volunteer and religion activities (12.4%), and personal interest and art activities (8.8%). This finding is consistent with a previous study that found that rural older adults tended to take part in fewer volunteer, religious, personal interest, and art activities than their urban counterparts (Beon et al., 2013). Personal interest and art activities were reported at the lowest rate, perhaps because rural, low-income older adults have limited opportunities or resources to participate in these types of activities.
Leisure competence or life satisfaction showed no statistically significant difference across leisure activity types, whereas leisure activity level showed significant differences. Although passive activities accounted for more than one half of reported leisure activities, they showed a relatively lower leisure activity level, which may be because leisure activities of rural, low-income older adults in South Korea are not often clearly distinguished from their daily activities. In addition, passive leisure activities are mainly practiced in rural areas. Based on this understanding of rural, low-income South Korean older adults' leisure activity types, programs providing more active forms of leisure activities for this population are needed.
In the current study, participants' leisure competence was 62.5% (42 of 75 points). This result is higher than the leisure competence score of 58% reported by Yun and Ha (2010), whose study investigated older adults who use urban welfare facilities; however, the current study had a higher ratio of female participants, which may account for this difference. The current study also found that participants' life satisfaction was 51% (18 of 35 points), indicating dissatisfaction with life (5 to 19 = unsatisfied), which was in contrast to a previous study that reported a life satisfaction score of 64% in urban older adult women (Kim & Choi, 2011). Therefore, participants' life satisfaction was relatively lower than that of their urban counterparts. Compared with urban older adults, participants had higher leisure competence but lower life satisfaction. Factors other than leisure competence may also need to be considered with regard to their potential direct influences on life satisfaction.
Other characteristics in the current study that were associated with participants' life satisfaction were religious and perceived health status. These two variables had similar influences on leisure competence and leisure activity level. This finding is consistent with that of a previous study, which found that older adults who perceive themselves to be healthy had a higher level of life satisfaction (Jeon, 2014). This finding indicates that subjective health perception status is a key factor that has an important influence not only on rural, low-income older adults' leisure competence and leisure activity participation, but also on their life satisfaction. Moreover, the interrelationship and influence analysis of the study variables indicated a significant positive correlation among leisure competence, leisure activity level, and life satisfaction. Leisure competence and leisure activity level explained as much as 47% of participants' life satisfaction. Based on these findings, the current study provides a strategic foundation for establishing an intervention to enhance life satisfaction through improved leisure competence and elevated leisure activity level for low-income older adults in rural areas.
Rural, low-income older adults often have a combination of a lower educational background, advanced ages, and solitary living arrangements. To improve their life satisfaction, it is important to improve their subjectively perceived health status and leisure competence. Instead of passive leisure activities, more active, self-initiated, and practical types of leisure activities are needed. The current study provides a basis for exploring strategic and specific intervention methods for improvements in leisure activity opportunities for rural, low-income older adults.
The current study was conducted in one rural area and is therefore limited in explaining the life satisfaction of the general rural, low-income South Korean older adult population. Care should be taken when generalizing the current findings to other groups. In addition, although many diverse variables affect older adult life satisfaction, the current study focused only on leisure competence and leisure activity level; therefore, the study is limited in explaining general older adult life satisfaction. Future studies examining more diverse factors are needed to further explore this topic.
The purpose of the current study was to examine the life satisfaction of rural, low-income older adults, with a focus on leisure competence and leisure activity level. It was determined that rural, low-income older adults' leisure competence, leisure activity level, and life satisfaction had a positive correlation, and leisure competence and leisure activity level explained 47% of participants' life satisfaction. These findings point to leisure competence as a potentially important factor for improving rural, low-income older adults' leisure activity participation levels. Therefore, establishing an intervention strategy to improve older adults' leisure competence and leisure practice may also improve their life satisfaction.
To improve the ability to generalize the results, a replication study is recommended with a more diverse representation of rural, low-income South Korean older adults. Further studies are needed to identify and investigate additional variables that could potentially affect older adult life satisfaction and leisure activities. Customized leisure activities that are appropriate to the unique characteristics of rural, low-income older adults should be developed, and their influences on leisure competence, leisure activity level, and life satisfaction must be investigated in an experimental study.
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General Participant Characteristics and Types of Leisure Activities (N = 137)
| Female||107 (78.1)|
| Male||30 (21.9)|
| 65 to 69||17 (12.4)|
| 70 to 79||74 (54)|
| ≥80||46 (33.6)|
| No||79 (57.7)|
| Yes||58 (42.3)|
| No||81 (59.1)|
| Yes||56 (40.9)|
| Yes||82 (59.9)|
| No||55 (40.1)|
| No formal education||45 (32.8)|
| Elementary school||51 (37.2)|
| Middle school||26 (19)|
| High school or higher||15 (10.9)|
| Yes||128 (93.4)|
| No||9 (6.6)|
|Perceived health status|
| Unhealthy||73 (53.3)|
| Healthy||64 (46.7)|
| Passive||76 (55.5)|
| Recreation and social||18 (13.1)|
| Volunteering and religious||17 (12.4)|
| Sports||14 (10.2)|
| Personal interest and art||12 (8.8)|
Level of Leisure Competence, Level of Leisure Activities, and Life Satisfaction (N = 137)
|Variable||Mean (SD)||Score Range|
|Leisure competencea||42.07 (9.2)||26 to 65|
|Level of leisure activitiesb (hours per week)||30.38 (16.26)||3.5 to 79.5|
|Life satisfactionc||18.74 (6.74)||7 to 32|
Differences in Leisure Competence, Level of Leisure Activities, and Life Satisfaction According to General Characteristics and Types of Leisure Activities (N = 137)
|Variable||Leisure Competence||Level of Leisure Activities||Life Satisfaction|
|Mean (SD)||t or F (p)||Mean (SD)||t or F (p)||Mean (SD)||t or F (p)|
| Female||41.79 (9.01)||0.67||29.77 (15.18)||0.71||18.61 (6.49)||0.42|
| Male||43.07 (9.95)||32.55 (19.78)||19.20 (7.69)|
| 65 to 69||39.29 (9.05)a||3.81*a,c < b||24.94 (14.4)||1.10||16.00 (5.55)||2.39|
| 70 to 79||44.03 (9.16)b||30.97 (15.7)||19.71 (6.98)|
| ≥80||39.96 (8.76)c||31.43 (17.68)||18.17 (6.5)|
| Yes||42.72 (9.6)||−0.71||29.09 (15.02)||0.79||18.88 (6.8)||−0.20|
| No||41.59 (8.93)||31.32 (17.15)||18.63 (6.74)|
| Yes||41.70 (9.46)||−0.40||33.26 (17.63)||1.74||18.18 (6.45)||−0.81|
| No||42.33 (9.06)||28.38 (15.03)||19.12 (6.95)|
| Yes||44.24 (8.82)||−3.51**||32.54 (15.05)||−1.92||20.45 (6.76)||−3.81***|
| No||38.84 (8.87)||27.15 (17.56)||16.18 (5.89)|
| No formal education||40.27 (8.23)||1.94||28.23 (16.59)||0.39||17.84 (6.2)||2.46|
| Elementary school||41.47 (9.98)||31.27 (14.91)||17.88 (6.88)|
| Middle school||45.19 (7.42)||31.62 (14.43)||21.85 (5.84)|
| High school or higher||44.13 (11)||31.60 (22.7)||18.93 (8.23)|
| Yes||41.72 (9.13)||1.71||30.50 (16.13)||−0.34||18.77 (6.85)||−0.24|
| No||47.11 (9.27)||28.61 (18.94)||18.22 (5.31)|
|Perceived health status|
| Unhealthy||39.44 (8.25)||−3.75***||27.75 (15.58)||−2.05*||16.66 (6.34)||−4.07***|
| Healthy||45.08 (9.36)||33.78 (16.62)||21.11 (6.43)|
|Type of leisure activity|
| Personal interest and art||36.42 (8.63)||1.30||19 (10.32)a||2.88*a < b,c,d,e||17.75 (6.22)||0.39|
| Volunteering and religious||43.29 (9.15)||33.29 (15)b||20.41 (7.22)|
| Recreation and social||42.72 (7.26)||37.03 (14.24)c||18.94 (6.77)|
| Sports||43 (8.49)||34.79 (22.49)d||19.21 (7.26)|
| Passive||42.37 (9.72)||29.13 (15.61)e||18.38 (6.72)|
Multiple Regression Analyses With Life Satisfaction as a Criterion (N = 137)a
|Leisure activities (hours per week)||0.07||0.03||0.18||2.57*|