Rowena, 86, turns her study of seniors groups into a PhD Loving life as a ‘third ager’
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.
REWARDING: Rowena MacKean, of Montagu Bay, is receiving a PhD for studying the health effects of community and support in later years.