Chatswood, Friday the 4th of November, 2016: 12:30pm
The main observation gathered from visiting the library, market stall and restaurant was the significant difference in the way people interacted with their surrounding space. Mobility and existing structures remained a challenge around the market stalls and the uphill slope and crowdedness made navigation difficult. The citizens tended to move towards areas of shade with seating, often just to rest.
Residents taking shade in 27 degree weather.
Citizens gravitated towards seated areas, looking for peace and to connect with their culture. The library had residents keeping up with global affairs with Chinese newspapers.
Artefacts in the surrounding space allow residents to keep in touch with their culture.
A senior citizen puts her feet up while reading a book in the spacious library.
In contrast to the calmness of the library, the yum cha restaurant saw the biggest change in the behaviour with the round tables encouraging social interaction.
The packed layout of this yum cha restaurant makes it difficult for the woman with a walker to move around the restaurant.
Citizens were brought together through the ritual of drinking tea and communicating in their first language. The design of the restaurant was difficult for customers with walkers to entre the space. Mobility devices like wheelchairs and walkers often became an obstacle for interaction as it made people move away from the user.
Insights into life at 65
My interviewee Red is a 65 year old retiree, living with her husband. In the half an hour interview, she displayed an overall sense of calmness and satisfaction. When asked about her life challenges, she discusses them as inevitable. Below is an analysis of her practices which have influenced her fulfilment.
Red’s every day routine consists of a balance between maintaining her health and family duties. Her integration of daily exercise connects her with nature whilst exercising through badminton. Following are visits and lunch with her parents in their late 80’s. The balance allows her to maintain her responsibilities whilst making room for enjoyment like watching television.
Red bending over to wash the dishes (Red, 2016).
Red has a strong sense of place, stating she enjoys the planted flowers in her town. Having grocery stores, a hospital and transportation services nearby make life convenient for her to stay close to family. The structures within her environment improve her health and mobility options. However, the city’s urban planning has been a challenge. “The main problem is I live on the 6th floor and there isn’t an escalator. At this age, my knees are not how they use to be and it is becoming increasingly hard to walk home” Red (2016,pers.comm.,4 Nov).
Red’s sense of self is very strong stating “I don’t have many worries except for the health of others” Red (2016,pers.comm.,4 Nov). The 4-2-1 problem remains the biggest difficulty with a large dependability on her as the eldest daughter to look after 2 sets of parents. However, the value of family and elders remains her top priority despite being an elder citizen herself.
Looking out the window on the top floor (Red, 2016).
Red maintains her well-being through her life experience, resulting in profound wisdom. When asked apart from health, how does she face stress? She answered:
“I try to worry less about their lives and just live my own. If you purposely involve yourself in their problems, you become a part of the problem. It is better to let them make mistakes so they can learn from them” Red (2016,pers.comm.,4 Nov).
In a culture of intergenerational dependency parental involvement, Red’s values differ from the standard. Her sense of calm reflects her ability to see the broader picture and her ability to “let the small things go” Red (2016,pers.comm.,4 Nov).
Back to 1996’s ‘Old Age Law’ (Wooa et all, 2002), Red actively seeks out opportunities to “study and learn” by attending a Senior Citizen University where she pursues her childhood interests of photography and music. “For the final stages of my life I want to continue my hobbies and do what I enjoy the most” Red (2016,pers.comm.,4 Nov).
A covered keyboard with intermediate sheet music (Red, 2016).
Her individuality and hobbies have maintained her sense of self, happiness and created opportunities for her to explore her interests outside of family and household chores. Much of the conversation was centred on preserving health to one day achieve bigger dreams of travelling in her home country or even abroad. As Red’s health continues to allow her to juggle caring for her elders, self and interests, her happiness and spiritual well-being remains at an equilibrium.
*Names have been changed to protect indentity.*
Red, Z. 2016, Hobby Room, Unpublished photograph, viewed 5 November 2016.
Red, Z. 2016, Daily Life of a Woman, Unpublished photograph, viewed 5 November 2016.
Red, Z. 2016, The 6th Floor, Unpublished photograph, viewed 5 November 2016.
Wooa, J. Kwoka, T. Szea, FKH. Yuanb, HJ. 2002, ‘Ageing in China: health and social consequences and responses’, International Journal of Epidemiology, vol. 31, no. 4, pp. 772-775.
Yu, Y. 2016, Seeking rest, Unpublished photograph, viewed 4 November 2016.
Yu, Y. 2016, Man reading the Chinese newspaper, Unpublished photograph, viewed 4 November 2016.
Yu, Y. 2016, Cultural artefact: The Chinese Newspaper, Unpublished photograph, viewed 4 November 2016.
Yu, Y. 2016, Peace at the Library, Unpublished photograph, viewed 4 November 2016.
Yu, Y. 2016, Yum Cha Connect, Unpublished photograph, viewed 4 November 2016.