Samoan Elders' Perceptions of Wellness: A New Zealand Case Study

Lilomaiava Silulu, Falegau Melanie
Nakhid, Camille
Fairbairn-Dunlop, Tagaloatele Peggy
Tunufa'i, Leulua'iali'i Laumua
Boon Nanai, Fa‘alāva‘au Juliet
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Doctor of Philosophy
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Auckland University of Technology

Globally, the health and wellness of ageing populations are areas of interest as people live longer. The Pacific population in New Zealand is similarly ageing. However, little is known about their health and research on their wellness is sparse. The purpose of this study was to explore Samoan elders’ perceptions of wellness. However, it became evident that their perceptions of age and ageing were also crucial to the aims of the study. There is not much that we know about Pacific people’s ageing experiences as migrants living in New Zealand. This study employed a qualitative phenomenological approach through a Samoan lens using talanoa methodology with four groups and eight individual participants aged between 63 and 84 years old. Analysis of the data using descriptive phenomenology revealed the following: Samoan elders had their own words and terms to describe age, ageing and wellness that related to fa‘aSamoa – these words were spiritually imbued and respectful signalling different age stages (matua, sinasina, tofa) and wellness references (soifua manuia/maua/lelei); Samoan elders had a positive outlook despite having significant health conditions; God, church and responsibilities to family influenced group talanoa elders’ views and impacted their experience of wellness; individual talanoa reinforced group findings and added new social connections, technology and other factors, such as physical health, diet and regular medical check-ups, as essential factors in maintaining elders’ wellness; children and family were elders’ most crucial concerns for the future as their focus was on the continuity and sustaining of fa‘amatai, ‘āiga and family systems; New Zealand was the preferred place for most elders to live at this time in their lives. The qualitative approach through talanoa was most effective in capturing elders’ perceptions and experiences. This is important given the need for more Pacific-specific ageing research globally and locally.

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