As world population ages and working hours decline, the use of leisure time assumes growing importance. This is a completely new phenomenon to the post-industrial revolution urban society. In traditional rural culture, community festivities and religious rites involved all ages and gave meaningful roles to young and old alike. The shrine, cathedral, village green, community plaza and so on have few contemporary equivalents. Furthermore, those equivalents that do exist - such as sports centres and theatres - cater to very delimited segments of the population, and are often exorbitantly expensive, especially for those whose income is limited by retirement. Public centres are too often such a low budget priority that facilities, staffing and programming is severely limited.
Access to a recreational facility is more often seen as a sign of wealth and prestige than good mental and physical health. Firms eager to recruit the best graduates boast of their squash courts and aerobics programmes.