Doctor of Philosophy in Interdisciplinary Studies (PhD)
Loneliness and social connection: mixed methods and video to explore older adults’ experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic
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Mobility enables older adults to maintain their physical health, independence and participation in society. In general, mobility has predominantly been understood in functional terms. Mobility is most often measured as physical movement and/or travel behaviour. Less attention has been paid to the subjective and temporal dimensions of older adults’ mobility experiences. In addition, older adults with low incomes are under-represented in mobility research. This dissertation uses a constructivist grounded theory methodology to describe the mobility experiences of active older adults with low income. The studies within this dissertation are set in Metro Vancouver; they utilize data from a group of 6 participants selected from a cross-sectional study of 161 older adults of low income.The first study demonstrates how a novel approach (grounded visualization) can be used to explore sociospatial and temporal complexities of older adults' mobility. A grounded visualization approach can provide a deeper understanding of the multi-faceted nature of older adults' mobility experiences. Findings illustrate that time is necessary for older adults' engagement with place; familiarity influences spatial perceptions of local and distant ‘neighbourhoods’; and older adults prioritize destinations that allow them to engage in multiple activities.The second study provides an in-depth qualitative description of the mobility experiences of older adults living with low income. The following themes were found to support mobility: maintaining a sense of self, being resourceful, openness to engagement, engaging in superficial contact, experiencing social capital, accessing transportation, leaving the immediate neighbourhood and facing affordability influence active mobility choices over time.The third study adapts a mobility conceptual framework to re-frame our understanding of older adults’ mobility experiences. The adapted framework offers a physiological, subjective, contextual and temporal approach that provides a more comprehensive conceptualization of the nature and processes of older adults’ mobility. The adapted framework uses a sliding scale in order to demonstrate the fluid, multi-faceted and interrelated nature of the various elements that influence mobility over time.Taken collectively, these studies fill methodological and conceptual gaps in the literature and provide data on an understudied population. The adapted framework can be incorporated into new approaches to study older adults’ mobility.
Introduction: Physical activity (PA), the movement of one’s body, and mobility, moving one’s body through space using a variety of modes, allow older adults to participate in their communities, cultivate social connections, maintain their health, and access services. Segments of the population, however, have been overlooked. While a growing body of research has focused on older adults, we know surprisingly little about the PA and mobility of foreign-born older adults (FBOAs).Objective: This dissertation uses a focused ethnographic approach to characterize the PA and mobility of 49 visible minority FBOAs in South Vancouver, Canada. Methods: The research was conducted in Hindi, Punjabi, Cantonese, Mandarin, and English. Forty-nine participants completed surveys about their PA habits; of these 49, 46 wore accelerometers and 18 completed in-depth interviews. I also developed a novel interview tool “interactive interpreted interviews”, neighbourhood walking interviews that included professional interpreters, which 13 participants completed. Results: Participants’ mean daily step count was 7,876 (women: 8,172; men: 7,164; Chinese: 8,291; South Asian: 7,196). The bulk of their time is spent in light and sedentary activities. Physical activity is principally acquired through walking for errands and work performed in/around the home. Participants walk for physical and mental wellbeing, and have access to a supportive social environment, which includes culturally familiar and linguistically accessible shops and services.Conclusions: This study challenges the assumption that FBOAs are less active than their non-immigrant peers and confirms the role of “nonexercise” and low activity, rather than moderate to vigorous activity, in older adults’ PA acquisition. Building on the Webber (2010) model of mobility in older adults, this study also highlights how gender and personal biography, including work history and family context, impact participants’ PA and mobility behaviours.