Quality of Life Leisure Indicators

The Quality of Life Reporting System, of which the City of Sasktoon is a partner, has eight dimensions to measure a community’s quality of life. These aspects include community affordability, quality of employment and housing, health, and safety. What are absent from the Reporting System’s components are indicators of leisure. Indeed, leisure activities have grown to such importance in North American society that their absence in a definition of quality of life seems puzzling. In Quality of Life Leisure Indicators, Sandi Olfert examines some of the means of assessing leisure as it pertains to quality of life, and proposes strategies in relation to the City of Saskatoon’s business plan.

After consultation with the City of Saskatoon’s Leisure Services Branch, it was decided to divide leisure into four matrices: environmental, social, personal, and economic. The environmental matrix can best be understood as “green space” and refers to such aspects as open recreational spaces and their proximity to residential areas, wildlife corridors, and walking or cycling trails. The social matrix is defined by two major examples of how people interact with their community. The first factor is volunteerism, which involves individuals helping in the community, and the second is family togetherness, which assesses how families enjoy being out in the community. The personal matrix is defined by: leisure sites (such as movie theatres, athletic clubs and events, or museums); number of library cards issued (which seeks to estimate intellectual curiosity and reading); family income, which influences the degree and/or opportunity of leisure time; and leisure time itself, which is defined as time spent away from paid work or other obligated time (such as household responsibilities). The fourth matrix, economic, is less self-contained than the other three, but rather measures the other three matrices’ economic impact (such as spending, family income, economic development) as they pertain to leisure and recreation. Assessing these matrices and incorporating them into measures of quality of life, Olfert suggests, provides a more thorough and meaningful illustration of a community’s health.

Olfert also examines the Livable Tucson Vision Program, which seeks to create a framework that sets goals for Tucson, Arizona, and offers a means of evaluating progress to such goals. Among the program’s seventeen aims are: alternate / non-automative transportation, such as bicycling and pedestrian-friendly streets; activist community organizations; superior public education; resistance to urban sprawl; environmental protection; quality jobs and wages; and historic preservation. Olfert applies the Tucson program to City of Saskatoon’s business plan and suggests such goals as encouraging local business to grow and participate in community activities; enhancing learning and resource sharing with families; greater concern towards environmental protection and education; increasing Aboriginal partnership incentives; more green spaces and family-oriented civic areas; encouraging neighbourhood renovation and revitalization; and improving community safety in terms of lighting and traffic calming features.

Olfert’s report offers a valuable starting point to expand the quality of life model to include the concept of leisure. The increasingly dominant role of recreation in Canadian society suggests that quality of life evaluations require its inclusion

Olfert, Sandi. (2003). Quality of Life Leisure Indicators. Saskatoon: Community-University Institute for Social Research.