Age, period or cohort: A ten year longitudinal study of garden visiting in England

Authors: Fox, D.

Start date: 7 July 2015

England, in common with many other countries, has an ageing population and understanding the leisure patterns over the lifetime of its residents, is therefore important. Visiting a garden that is open to the public has been demonstrated to offer many rewards. These include not only the beneficial effects of being in a natural place (biophilia) but also physical, social, cultural and horticultural benefits. Whether a visit takes place is influenced by a range of factors, both internal and external to the garden and to the visitor.

Theories of change in behaviour over time can be attributed to three distinct factors - age, period and cohort (Segall, 2013). Age is a key demographic in many studies and is most often employed to demonstrate differences between age groups. Less frequently, a period of years is used in longitudinal studies to show changes over time. Rarely though are changes to an age group or cohort examined. This research, however, adopts all three measures to enable a greater understanding of change to emerge. A trend study, consisting of two cross-sectional studies 10 years apart, was undertaken through resident surveys, using self-completion questionnaires, in the South of England. A random cluster sample was selected in the BH Postcode area in 2002 and 2012. Data was analysed for respondents (n = 734), beginning at ages 25-34, in 10 year bands ending at 75 and over. The results confirm previous studies that have identified the appeal of garden visiting to people of all ages, but predominantly the middle aged. Findings also show how different influences affect visitation; for example, the general increase over the decade in internet use as a source of inspiration for a visit, but most significantly for those aged 35-55. Similarly, the study identifies the decline in use of traditional print media, over the 10 year period, within some cohorts, but not all. A range of factors such as the weather, are also demonstrated to have varying impact on different age groups, as do friends and family amongst others. The research therefore makes an important contribution to both garden operators and researchers in leisure studies.

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