224195 On/in our own terms: Elders' meanings of community involvement and healthy aging

Wednesday, November 10, 2010 : 12:45 PM - 1:00 PM

Marty Martinson, DrPH , School of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley, Richmond, CA
In recent years, research, policy and practice have focused on older adult civic engagement with its purported contributions to healthy aging and healthy communities. The empirical research has operationalized civic engagement primarily as formal service volunteerism while ignoring other types of community involvement such as social justice activism, cultural preservation, spiritual leadership and informal help. Furthermore, research has focused on individual health and wellbeing outcomes of volunteering as assessed through quantitative methods while few studies explore meanings older adults themselves have about community involvement, healthy aging, and the broader contexts of involvement and healthy aging. This qualitative study takes a modified grounded theory approach to explore the lived experiences of community involvement among a diverse sample of 22 elders, ages 60-93 years old, who are engaged in various types of community work. In-depth interviews are analyzed to explore subjective meanings of community work, the relation of those meanings to experiences of aging, and the elders' definitions of “healthy aging.” Three key findings reveal that elders' community involvement and healthy aging reflect reciprocal interactions between individual, interpersonal and broader social, political and economic contexts: 1) community involvement is more than an individual act as it reflects and affects dynamic processes of community building and social capital; 2) healthy aging is not a static state but rather a web of processes involving self, community and society; and 3) community involvement, aging and health are processes elders negotiate, employing varying degrees of agency to create a sense of “aging on my own terms.”

Learning Areas:
Diversity and culture
Public health or related education
Public health or related public policy
Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences
Systems thinking models (conceptual and theoretical models), applications related to public health

Learning Objectives:
1. Analyze strengths and limitations of the body of research on older adult community involvement in the context of the Ecological Model. 2. Explain how qualitative research methods utilizing modified grounded theory can lead to critical understandings of older adult community involvement and healthy aging. 3. Identify meanings that diverse older adults hold about community involvement, healthy aging, and the broader contexts in which community work and healthy aging occur. 4. Articulate how conceptual frameworks of Critical Gerontology, including Michel Foucault’s concept of “technologies of the self”, 5. Describe elders’ subjective meanings of community involvement and healthy aging. 5. Describe the policy and practice implication of this research.

Keywords: Aging, Community Involvement

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: as a DrPH student at UC Berkeley, I wrote the dissertation on which the abstract is based.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.