A white woman aged 40-50 wrapping up warm on the beach after cold water swimming

Research Report: Silver Linings – Engaging Women in Sport in Later Life


Why are women continuing to miss out on the benefits that sport and physical activity brings as they get older?

This report uses qualitative research to better understand women’s relationship with sport and physical activity in later life.

The experiences of women aged between 55-75, their attitudes towards ageing, their motivations and interests, as well as perceived barriers are explored. This report includes practical recommendations for sports deliverers wanting to engage women of this age group more effectively in sport or physical activities.


As I get older and now the children have left home, I’m feeling the empty nest syndrome…so it’s important to have a network at the club – it’s all about having a circle of friends

Report contents

  • Attitudes towards ageing.
  • Women’s lifestyles and values.
  • Barriers to being active.
  • How to support women to be more active in later life.

Key findings

  • Spending time with friends and family is a top priority, particularly looking after grandchildren and socialising with friends.
  • Women do not identify with the label ‘older women’.
  • Having fun and learning new skills are high on the agenda for this age group.
  • Volunteering can be a good entry point to being physically active.
  • Lack of self-confidence and self-belief are the biggest barriers to participation.
  • Women are not as active as men in later life and are missing out on the health and social benefits of sport.


  • Make fun and social aspects the focus.
  • Engage women by offering non-traditional activities.
  • Reassure women on the suitability of activities.
  • Use positive images and language.
  • Support camaraderie and connections through social media groups.
  • 42 %

    of people aged 55+ are inactive

    Chief Medical Officer

  • 2.8 million

    people aged 50+ do no physical activity over 28 days

    Sport England, 2016

Download the report