Episode 5 – Lived realities of older women living in rural communities: insights from Dr. Olive Bryanton


Today we talk with Olive about aging in place and her recent Ph.D. on this very subject.

Olive Bryanton recently completed her Ph.D. in Educational Studies at the University of Prince Edward Island. Her research was about women age 85 and older living in rural PEI with a focus on what supported or limited their ability to age in place. She used the Photovoice research method as a way to learn about their lived realities, to give them a voice, and to increase their visibility as active and healthy members of society. As a researcher and an older adult herself, she believes that older adults must be recognized as integral to all aspects of our society and should be involved as advisors in any research or program development that could impact their lives. As a lifelong advocate for older adults, Olive was actively involved in the establishment of the PEI Seniors College and the Seniors Active Living Centre in Charlottetown. Her ongoing work has included program development for older adults, research on transportation, abuse of older adults, seniors safety program, and this past year was appointed by the Minister of Health to serve on the Executive Advisory Committee for the development of the initial PEI Seniors Health and Wellness Strategy.

We’re all aging, and everyone’s talking about it!

More about today’s guest

Dr. Olive Bryanton at AgeWell

Key Takeaways

[:39] Jenna introduces Dr. Olive Bryanton and asks her to talk a bit about what aging in place means.

[2:32] Olive seems to talk about older adults as a separate group from herself, is she included in the group? Has that perspective of being an older adult colored her researched?

[3:40] Olive shares advice for younger researchers working with older adult populations.

[4:33] Emily asks what inspired Olive to take on her Ph.D. project on what supports or limits our ability to age in place.

[6:10] Olive shares her study structure as well as some of the interesting results her research yielded on aging in place: agency, community involvement, and family proximity are some of the factors that facilitate aging in place.

[9:20] Jenna, Emily, and Olive discuss the replicability and biases of the study as well as the research opportunities it opens up.

[10:05] Emily details the four research questions of Olive’s study and asks her to dive deeper into each of them.

  1. 1. What are the lived realities of women aged 85 and older living in rural communities?
  2. 2. How do social structures and government policies influence these women’s daily lives?
  3. 3. How do women 85 and older educate themselves about aging and living in rural communities?
  4. 4. How do women 85 and older share their knowledge and mentor others?
  5. [11:14] Olive explains why she chose 85 and older women as well as why and how she framed question number 1 which naturally led to question 3 and 4!
  6. [13:00] Olive touches on the inception of the question around the formal structures in place to support aging populations (Q. 2) and how it yielded surprising results on the importance of informal structures available.
  7. [15:45] Olive chose a semi-structured interview, photovoice and storytelling of lived experience to answer the four questions; she talks about why she chose a group method and how it played out in the field.
  8. [22:25] During one of the photovoice research gatherings the PEI minister for seniors showed up, Olive explains how that led to the Senior’s Independence Initiative, what it is, and her one suggestion to the minister!
  9. [25:39] Emily asks what the major takeaway is from this study; Olive is quick to highlight that older women are not a burden on society and it’s not about independence but interdependence.
  10. [27:33] Olive goes in depth about how she believes that technology has a role to play in supporting aging in place.
  11. [33:31] Emily asks what legacy Olive hopes she leaves behind with her work as well as what her coming projects are.
  12. [36:08] We thank Olive for coming on the podcast. Until next time, subscribe, rate, and share!