'Being aged' in the everyday: uncovering the meaning through elders' stories

Wright St Clair, VA
Kerse, N
Smythe, L
Davis, P
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Doctoral Thesis
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The University of Auckland

It’s like the sun and the tide. The aim of this study was to understand the meaning of ‘being aged’ through the everyday experiences of those who are aged. Philosophically, this interpretive study was informed by hermeneutics and interpretive phenomenology. The writings of two twentieth-century philosophers, Hans-Georg Gadamer and Martin Heidegger, guided the study’s design and research methods. The phenomenon of interest is ‘being aged;’ a thing which is ordinarily taken-for-granted in the everyday. However, much is already spoken and empirically ‘known’ about the phenomenon by those who are not yet aged. Methodologically the study’s design sought to ‘put aside’ those voices and listen in closely to what elders themselves had to say about being in their everyday lives. Individual research conversations were conducted with fifteen participants; four Maori elders aged 71 to 93 and eleven non-Maori elders aged 80 to 97 years. All were living in private residences on Auckland’s North Shore and recruited by way of the general electoral roll. The conversations were focused on gathering the stories of particular everyday events as well as the person’s reflections on aging. Anecdotes drawn from the conversations formed the research text. Hermeneutics informed the interpretive engagement with this text. As a non-Maori researcher, cultural integrity of the text and the interpretations was enhanced through partnership with a Maori advisor. Dwelling hermeneutically with the anecdotal text was a way of listening to the spoken and unspoken words. Four overarching notions were illuminated and form the study’s findings. They are my interpretive descriptions of the ordinary ways of ‘being in the everyday,’ the experiences of ‘being with others’ in advanced age, the announcing of being aged in the uncomfortableness of ‘experiencing the unaccustomed’ and how ‘aging just is’ there in an everyday way. Reflecting phenomenologically on the findings, the meaning of being aged is in its ordinariness. My thesis is that being in the ordinary everyday in advanced age both conceals and reveals the phenomenon of being aged.

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