Connecting Reflections: Narratives of Older Adults Participation in Pandemic-Era Photovoice | Research on Aging Revealed, Age of Champions 2022
From Trevor Massey
Researchers in diverse fields who seek to understand and provide solutions to support the health and well-being of vulnerable populations have recognized the need to engage with research participants not as “subjects” but as collaborative partners. The COVID-19 pandemic brought with it a wave of narratives positioning people age 65 and older as “at-risk” and “vulnerable.” Researchers have begun to collect stories of well-being during the pandemic, but none have engaged research participants in purposeful reflection to understand what it was like to share stories about this global critical life event with research teams. This narrative analysis explores the stories of five U.S. community-dwelling women age 65+ who participated in a 6-week online Photovoice research project that asked them to use photography to reflect on their well-being during COVID-19. Through a narrative approach, the researcher engaged these participants in program evaluation interviews to understand the meaning they gave to their research participation. Through narrative analysis, the researcher identified “engagement strategies” participants used to make meanings clear, and strengths-based facilitation techniques that impacted engagement. Emerging themes of meaningful participation include: seeing a new point of view, learning a new skill, finding “more of myself in someone else”, understanding “how I coped” with a critical life event, and embracing a “new kind of research”. Implications include recommendations for incorporating transformative facilitation and narrative reflection into intergenerational partnerships. By engaging in collaborative approaches and applying co-created reflective data, researchers may center participant voices, learn alongside them, and support valuable roles for participants across the lifespan.