As a part of my primary research I visited the Sydney suburb of Chinatown, to carry out primary observation of how older Chinese citizens gather and carry out their day-to-day lives. While I documented a summary of my initial findings in the above AEIOU template, I also found it valuable to carry out an analysis of the photo ethnography I captured. An insight from both of these research methods was the tendency for elderly Chinese people to travel alone or in pairs, meeting acquaintances on their travels for a conversation. As well, they trended to only socialise with other elderly citizens, creating an opportunity for better intergenerational interactions to be established.
In the hope of better understanding the value of measuring health and wellbeing using a Quality of Life Profile, I then undertook an interview with a member of the Australian elderly community. Evelyn is a retired educator; “74 years young, I moved to Australia with my husband from our hometown of Johannesburg to be closer to our grandchildren”. With the prospect of gaining Australian citizenship in the future, the pair knew that they had to support themselves financially for some time before they would be eligible for a pension. This meant establishing local roots and eventually starting their own small business from their home. Now settled, I asked Evelyn how she maintained a positive outlook and continues to look after her well-being. It quickly became evident that her passion for gardening has played a key role in sustaining her physical and psychological health. “During times when I was unsure of our life-decision to move to Australia, I would find refuge in my garden.” Evelyn went on to say that she had “…always had a green thumb and found spending time outside a productive way of collecting [her] thoughts.” Touring around Evelyn’s garden she pointed out her favourite spots to sit by herself, to share with friends and family and pre-empted many of my questions on how she maintains the space. Evelyn was considered in the way she established her garden when she moved into her new house, putting low maintenance plants in places that where difficult for her to reach, as well as low garden beds in areas she wanted to share her love of gardening with her young grandchildren.
Questioning Evelyn about her support networks she mentioned she has in the past invited people to maintain her garden with her and she has even had younger neighbours come past to help with heavy labour tasks. As well as this Evelyn’s Church group facilitates her sense of belonging. “I am fortunate enough to have a Church group that meets not too far from my home. We meet twice a week and get to support those of us who don’t have family to check in on them”. Evelyn has gone away on weekend retreats with the group and this has fuelled her aspiration to travel more. Narrowing my questions around this I asked what the next trip was that Evelyn was planning. “I’m flying down to Tasmania at the end of the year with my daughter. It’s something I’ve been planning and looking forward to for a while now.” It was obvious to me by the excitement in her voice that this was a major motivator for her. Wrapping up the interview, the conversation circled back to hobbies and her frustration not being able to physically do some of the tasks she used to. It seemed to me that there was an opportunity to make recreation more accessible for the elderly to promote healthy ageing.
Written by Kevin Millingham