Ph D research.

I am currently studying for a Ph D at the University of Canberra. My thesis is based on an analysis of the lifestyle choices which influence the well being of older Australians.
What is different about my research is that it is being carried out by an older person. I also have a team of older friends who support me with advice and encouragement.
My research will take either 3 or 4 years in total, and I have been working on it for about 18 months.

First year.

In the first year of my research I concentrated on the negative image Australia has of its ageing population and the effect of this on us ‘oldies’. Part of this ‘negativeness’ is reflected in the fact that almost all research into ageing is done by younger people. It is in the same situation as research into women’s issues was decades ago, with women excluded from it, and research into Aboriginal issues was, and to some extent still is, done with Aboriginals excluded. I am suggesting that this exclusion undermines the accuracy of the research itself and, in particular, the accuracy of the results.
Research into ageing issues should include older people from the start, including with the identification of issues to be researched, the research format, the development of questionnaires, analysis of data and with the resultant report.
I presented papers on this to the Australian Association of Gerontology (NSW division) in Tamworth, Australia in March 2006, at the International Federation on Ageing 8th Global Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark in May 2006, and at the 3rd International Conference on Healthy Ageing and Longevity in Melbourne, Australia in October 2006. A copy of the Power Point presentations for these will be available shortly. I also had an article about my work printed in the December edition of the Victorian Senior (Australia).
One writer has suggested that younger people who do research on ageing know the literature but not the lifestyle. He could have added that the literature they have read was probably also written by younger people.
I also looked at examples of the negative ageing climate and the effect this may have on older people. An example of negative ageing is that birthday cards rarely portray ageing as a desirable thing! Older people report that they feel that the community regards them as ‘silly old fools’, ‘childish’, ‘feeble’, ‘losing it’, ‘old fashioned’, ‘grumpy’, ‘live in the past’, ‘miserly’, ‘selfish’, ‘worry too much’, ‘self-deluding’, ‘bad drivers’, ‘had it’, ‘intolerant’ and so on. This hardly helps self esteem.

Second year (current stage).

Currently I am analysing data about older people collected through an annual questionnaire administered by one of the major Australian Universities and a major Government Department. I am looking at people 55 years and older, as 55 is the age at which Australian government employees can choose to retire.
I have subdivided the population into 5 year age groups, 55-59, 60-64 etc with the final subdivision at 90+. In some instances, small sample sizes, such as those relating to older people still in the workforce, mean that I have had to make the oldest cut off year at a younger age. I am also analysing the data on the basis of gender. I hope to present papers on this phase of my work at a special conference on Gender in Ageing in Newcastle, Australia in July 2007, at a conference in Sydney in July 2007, and at the 8th Asia/Oceania Regional Conference of Gerontology and Geriatrics in Beijing in October 2007.

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