Rowena, 86, turns her study of se­niors groups into a PhD Lov­ing life as a ‘third ager’

Sunday Tasmanian - - News - ANNE MATHER

LIFE-LONG learn­ing is a life­force for Rowena MacKean.

At 86 years young, the for­mer high school teacher has just com­pleted her PhD and is now con­tem­plat­ing a book.

Al­though she has not been in the paid work­force for 20 years, Dr MacKean says her life only be­came busier af­ter so-called “re­tire­ment”.

“I don’t use the word ‘re­tire­ment’, I re­fer to the pe­riod of life as post paid-work — be­cause I have worked so hard over the past 20 years since leav­ing the paid work­force.”

She has helped set up a lo­cal walk­ing group near her Eastern Shore home, a lo­cal branch of the Univer­sity of the Third Age and even a lobby group called the Se­niors Ac­tion Group of the Eastern Shore.

The in­volve­ment in groups has brought so many ben­e­fits to Dr MacKean she de­cided to for­mally re­search its pos­i­tive out­comes.

First she stud­ied to­wards a Masters, com­pleted in 2010, which ex­plored older peo­ple’s views on their par­tic­i­pa­tion and the ben­e­fits they said they de­rived from be­long­ing.

Fol­low­ing the self-as­sessed health and well­be­ing out­comes that emerged from the Masters re­search, Dr MacKean de­cided to in­ves­ti­gate fur­ther.

The re­sult­ing PhD, which Dr MacKean will for­mally re- ceive next week­end, in­ves­ti­gated to what de­gree par­tic­i­pa­tion in a com­mu­nity or­gan­i­sa­tion run by, and for, older peo­ple, in­flu­ences their health and well­be­ing.

To carry out the re­search, Dr MacKean was able to study some of the plethora of groups avail­able on her own doorstep.

“There are 64 dif­fer­ent groups right here on the Eastern Shore — there are groups for walk­ers, sewing, craft, choirs, dis­cus­sion, bowl­ing …. the list goes on.”

Dr MacKean said even those groups not ex­plic­itly ded­i­cated to learn­ing could fa­cil­i­tate learn­ing and an ac­tive mind and be ben­e­fi­cial to health and well­be­ing.

“Be­ing in a sup­port­ive group with peo­ple of a sim­i­lar age is very im­por­tant,” she said. “It gives mean­ing and purpose.”

Her pre­ferred term for her own age group is “third agers”, which is the age af­ter be­ing in the paid work­force while peo­ple are still liv­ing ac­tively and in­de­pen­dently in their own homes.

“Third agers don’t want peo­ple around say­ing ‘there, there dear I’ll do it for you’,” she said.

“We are in­de­pen­dent — even if it kills us.”

She said her stud­ies were not fin­ished yet, and she would prob­a­bly start a book about the third age move­ment.

Pic­ture: MATHEW FAR­RELL

RE­WARD­ING: Rowena MacKean, of Mon­tagu Bay, is re­ceiv­ing a PhD for study­ing the health ef­fects of com­mu­nity and sup­port in later years.

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