Dr. Kristi Allain Examines Importance of Intergenerational Physical Activity  

Dr. Kristi Allain

Dr. Kristi Allain is throwing stones at the misconceptions that older athletes have less to contribute to their sport. Her latest research is focusing on the role of older curlers in the success of the sport, including how they are inspiring and training younger athletes.  


“Curling is unique in that it is one of few sports where the bodies of the old are centred as experts and even sometimes celebrated as national champions. Curlers are often the oldest athletes at the Winter Olympics, making it an important sport for investigation, especially as countries like Canada grow demographically older,” she said.“These older members of the club are also central to the daily operations of the club, maintaining the facilities, occupying seats on the board and training the next generations of curlers.”

Her study, “Little Rocks and Old Stones: An Examination of Intergenerational Physical Activity and Aging Across the Life Course” received a SSHRC Insight Development Grant of $49,432.Through this work, she will examine what happens when the old and young come to play together at the curling club.“Through an examination of learn-to-curl programs, I’m looking at the ways that older coaches and instructors work with the young to teach them physical capacity in a way that challenges assumptions about the bodies of the old. Within the curling club, it is often the older members who are the most physically competent. In this way, curling challenges assumptions about the old and bodily capacity but it also does more than that. It brings old and young together to experience pleasure.”The study will involve 12 to 16 weeks on non-participant ethnographic research, observing and interviewing research participants, instructors, parents and others, and engaging arts-based data collection in two learn-to-curl programs – one in Atlantic Canada and one in Central Canada.  


This research will help develop important scholarly knowledge about intergenerational sport, aging, pleasure, the body, and the life course.  


“I think this work will draw attention to older athletes and their contribution. This is largely overlooked in popular media and in academic scholarship. We often think that younger is better and it is important to point out that seeing diverse bodies of all ages and abilities celebrated for their sport achievements sends important messages about which bodies matter in the Canadian imagination.”

Dr. Allain teaches in the Sociology department at STU and is the Canada Research Chair in Physical Culture and Social Life.