“I Just Want to Play”: Methodological Considerations For Including Older Adults in Co-creation of Research With A Focus on the Meaning of Activity for Residents of a 55+ Active Adult Master Planned Community
Lahman, Maria K.
Larkins, Randy J.
Merchant, William R.
College of Education and Behavior Sciences, Department of Applied Statistics and Research Methods
University of Northern Colorado
Type of Resources
Place of Publication
University of Northern Colorado
Co-creation of research with older adults is examined methodologically and the meaning of activity for older adults living in a 55+ active adult master planned community is examined contextually. Older adults are often the subjects of research but rarely involved as co-creators. Literature on co-creation of research indicates that it allows stakeholders greater participation (Halvorsrud et al., 2021), and older adults should be seen as stakeholders (Weil, 2015). This perspective challenges bias toward older people (van den Berg et al., 2019), and acknowledges the wealth of knowledge they possess as “experts” (Partridge, 2022). While potential exist for co-creation of research with older adults, it was important to establish the extent to which they are willing to spend their time in this way. The methodological research question was: “What are methodological questions when involving residents of a 55+ active adult master planned community as co-creators of research,” Research on activity for older adults shows that successful aging is often portrayed as “active, engaged, and healthy” (Huijg et al., 2017, p. 234), part of what Estes referred to as the “contemporary aging enterprise” (as cited in Timonen, 2016, p. x). Retirement communities, master-planned age-restricted communities, and community centers provide activities based on their beliefs about what older adults need and want. Although older adults represent a diverse population, they generally report that they enjoy being “active.” What we did not know was how they define “activity,” what it means to them, or which activities they prefer. The contextual research questions were, “How do residents of a 55+ active adult master planned community experience “activity”?” and “Which activities do residents of a 55+ active adult master planned community prefer?” I lived a 55+ active adult master planned community called Sequoia Heights (a pseudonym) for six weeks as a participant-observer. Data were 14-day activity journals, extensive observation, in-depth interview with 17 participants, and collaboration in developing and disseminating a survey (N = 57). Methodological findings showed that while some participants expressed willingness to be involved in co-creation of research, many were hesitant, with a focus on other priorities, allocation of time, and lack of interest appearing as key themes. Contextual findings indicated that while older adults are often encouraged to remain “active,” to experience successful aging, there is little consensus on what this means. Many were inclined to label “activity” as physical, but the majority indicated that activity is special, uses significant time, and is varied. Views about an “active person” including being engaged, being independent, getting out, doing physical activities, and doing social activities. They value activity primarily for its effect on their physical and mental health. Living in a 55+ active adult master planned community appears to help facilitate greater activity for those who are interested. Older adults at Sequoia Heights prefer activities that are physical, followed by social and intellectual activities. They enjoy both routine and special activities.
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