Psychosocial aspects of participation in competitive sports among older athletes: a scoping review

Valentina Cannella, Feliciano Villar, Rodrigo Serrat, Emmanuelle Tulle

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Background and Objectives
In the last decade, sport has been considered a tool in active aging to maintain physical fitness, improve mental well-being, and form social relationships among older people. However, a thorough psychosocial understanding of the phenomenon of older athletes competing in sports events is lacking. Most research has focused on competitive sports participation in the young population. This study analyzes the general state of knowledge of competitive sports participation among athletes aged 50 years and older from a psychosocial perspective.

Research Design and Methods
We followed the 5-step process outlined by Arksey and O’Malley. After the search in 4 electronic databases, 69 peer-reviewed articles met the inclusion criteria.

The findings indicate that psychosocial research into older people’s participation in competitive sports has grown moderately in the last decade. While intrapersonal and interpersonal aspects have dominated the academic psychosocial discourse on older athletes’ competitive sports participation, aspects related to the environment/community and policy have largely been overlooked.

Discussion and Implications
We identified several critical gaps in the literature, classified into conceptual (e.g., lesser attention to personality, emotional, and cognitive aspects), methodological (e.g., longitudinal studies almost absent), and diverse aspects (e.g., focus on a wide indiscriminate age range; few comparisons between types of sports; underrepresentation of some nation or world regions as well as few cross-national comparative studies). These research gaps hint at opportunities that future research on older people’s participation in competitive sports should address.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e468-e480
Number of pages13
JournalThe Gerontologist
Issue number8
Early online date15 Jun 2021
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2022


  • Active aging
  • Master athlete
  • Seniors games
  • Socioecological model
  • Sport participation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Gerontology


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