Midlife women's lived experience : their patterns of health, leisure and enjoyment
This study was prompted by the negative images of midlife women portrayed in the literature and popular culture. Apart from a few accounts of extraordinary feats, which counter the generalisations about midlife women, for example, a 76 year old grandmother going sky-diving, there is very little written about midlife women living enjoyable, independent lives. This work presents a detailed analyses of the way in which thirty women have been able to, or are in the process of, actively structuring an enjoyable midlife. Previous research has tended to view aspects of women's lives in isolation, such as leisure, body, health, or work. The artificial boundaries that have arisen because of this separation reinforce societal notions of fragmentation within social life. This research was designed to challenge these divisions and, by investigating women's enjoyable experiences, to develop concepts that are common across the composition of these women's lives. A feminist phenomenological methodology was used and semi-structured in-depth interviews were undertaken to access women's lived experience of enjoyment, their lifeworld, and also to determine participants understanding of the concept of leisure and their experience of menopause. All interviews were transcribed and subjected to a systematic content analysis, as advocated by phenomenological research practitioners. The findings contradict the predominantly negative popular images of midlife women and show that most of the women in the study are in the act of resisting the earlier views of women and ageing. Their responses also indicate they tend not to recognise the fragmentation of their lives into work, leisure and health issues, but rather regard their lives as 'all together and not separated out'. An enjoyable lifeworld means being regarded as an individual and independent person and having 'a sense of being in charge', over their own time and space, making opportunities for physical, social, creative and intellectual activity, as well as preparing for the future. The thesis concludes with a discussion of how midlife women are creating enjoyable lifestyles. The concept of enjoyment and enjoyable experiences appear to defy segmentation, and the women are in the act of composing their own lives.