recreation

During tough economic times, we must take action to ensure that Canada’s economy grows, but those actions must not be at the expense of other aspects of lives. The recent release of the Canadian Index of Wellbeing (CIW) brought attention to the importance of looking beyond just economic indicators when considering how well we are doing as a country. Over the 15 year period covered by the CIW, we saw Gross Domestic Product per capita (GDP) increase by 31% and the CIW increase by only 11%. While this trend is troubling enough, of even greater concern is that among the eight domains that comprise Canadians’ wellbeing, leisure and culture has fared the worst. Our leisure and culture actually declined by 3%.

Several factors have contributed to this decline: people are socialising with family and friends less often, less time is spent engaging in arts and culture activities, fewer people are visiting our National Parks and National Historic Sites, and fewer hours are being spent volunteering for recreation and culture organisations in our communities. And lower levels of volunteering affects not only the wellbeing of the people who enjoy giving of themselves, but the wellbeing of the people who receive the benefits of the volunteers’ efforts and the wellbeing of the community as a whole which benefits from a more vibrant and connected populace. There are, however, some positive trends – participation in physical activity has increased, we are taking slightly longer holidays, and fewer of us are spending long hours at work each week. Nevertheless, the overall patterns suggest we are having less fun and feeling much more time stressed.

Some observers have suggested that we must step back and make better choices, that we should be more active, be more engaged in our communities, and change our behaviour. However, we must resist feeling that the decline in leisure and culture, and hence our wellbeing, is purely a consequence of personal choice. Rather than “blame ourselves”, we need to address the broader systemic problems that have relegated leisure and culture to an afterthought. Recent cuts in support for the public agencies and non-profit and voluntary groups typically responsible for leisure and culture activities reflect the lack of priority they have on the minds of policy makers. Setting policy is all about making choices and deliberate reductions in our capacity to develop and provide meaningful venues and opportunities for participation in leisure and arts and cultural activities threaten the wellbeing of individuals, communities, and Canadian society at large.

We must strengthen our resolve to sustain and further develop leisure and culture resources. We must demand more from our elected officials and bureaucrats to protect those opportunities and places where we celebrate our culture, our humanity, our sense of ourselves. Without those opportunities, we are less well as a society.

Bryan Smale is the Director of the Canadian Index of Wellbeing (CIW) and a Professor in the Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies at the University of Waterloo. For more information on the CIW, please visit www.ciw.ca

I was very pleased to hear the decision by LIN to change the name back to the original title of Leisure Information Network. A trend that I have witnessed in recent years within the field is a move away from association with the word leisure perhaps owing to a connection with idleness or non-productivity. So when did the pursuit of that wonderful state of mind known as leisure that is characterized but relative freedom and intrinsic motivation become a bad thing? Similarly I question our enthusiasm in becoming so closely allied with national health agenda. In doing so, something wonderful has been lost and that is the pursuit of experiences for their own sake. If we as a field turn away from championing the pursuit of leisure, who will assume that noble cause. If we no longer are concerned with providing individuals with the values, knowledge, skills, and attitudes that will motivate them to seek leisure in their lives, then quality of life will be greatly diminished for the current and future generations. Without having that leisure state of mind as a goal, than it perhaps matters little what ways people fill their free time or what forms of recreation they pursue. That may make our work easier, but certainly no longer essential. I for one stand up and applaud the return of the LEISURE Information Network.

Brenda Robertson

School of Recreation Management and Kinesiology

Acadia University

550 Main Street, Wolfville, NS, B4P 2R6

(902)585-1522 phone, (902)585-1702 fax

LIN has been delivering outstanding online services to over 6,000 professionals and volunteers in the leisure services and lifestyle sector since 1995. It has actively sought to continually expand the National Recreation Data  Base with studies, policies, research findings, presentations and other forms of information that contribute to the advancement of the sector – and to post secondary students preparing to serve in it.  

It was a natural transition in 2010 when LIN moved from being a stand-alone non-profit organization to coming under the stewardship of the Alberta Recreation and Parks Association and its partners in the Canadian recreation and parks sector. The involvement of LIN at the recent National Recreation Summit was just another example of the key role it can play in information gathering and dissemination for the sector.

The original name of LIN was the Leisure Information Network. While it was broadened to the Lifestyle Information Network several years ago, it is now fitting that it returns to its first name. This doesn’t mean that LIN has narrowed its scope in information gathering, it rather emphasizes the broad scope and meaning of leisure and its contributions to individuals and communities.

Don Hunter, Chair of LIN 2008-2010  

The author discusses the changes in society and the role of recreation professionals and comes to the conclusion that "The recreation profession has the unparalleled opportunity to promote empowerment through community development. This is part of a new role for recreationists, as we move from a consumer society where programs are consumed, to a more cooperative society where community development plays an important role. Recreationists need to immerse themselves in community development because of the realization that people need to be educated about empowerment, acquire self-confidence, and support each other in order for communities to be a better place to live. The results of cooperative communities in the empowerment process will be an enrichment of leisure opportunities and increased quality of life for all those willing to participate in meeting the challenges of community life. It is time that society as a whole, communities, and recreationists in particular, can take responsibility for the future of their communities."Originally published in Journal of Leisurability vol. 24, #1.