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Older Resident Perceptions of “Home” Using Photovoice: A Case Study

By: Published: 2017 | Product: SAGE Research Methods Cases Part 2
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My interest in the experience of “place” began during my doctoral studies when I learned about families who lived in budget hotels. To explore hotel life, I conducted an ethnographic study to observe the environment and get a sense of how people dwelled there. Since then, and over the last 10 years, my scholarship progressed from a purely conceptual exploration of “home” to a more complex community-based participatory approach that engages residents in the assessment of health effects related to the built environment. From my dissertation, I published three articles that described liminal positions of people trapped in hotel housing, positive hotel affordances that fostered healthy person–place interactions, and unique coping strategies used by residents to navigate complex environmental conditions. One key finding was that socially marginalized residents of budget hotels experienced systemic barriers when attempting to move out of transient shelter and into more stable, long-term housing. It became clear to me that advocacy was a missing component from the social work approach when helping families transition across housing. To explore unique challenges experienced by aging adults, I recognized that an ethnographic approach alone would not foster a sense of empowerment among residents. My research methodology needed to include a community-based participatory approach. Therefore, I adopted photovoice methodology as an approach to help aging adults speak out about environmental conditions that influenced well-being. I contacted the director of an assisted living facility to conduct an evaluation of an assisted living facility. The proposed study offered an opportunity to apply this methodology with older adults in a congregate living environment. In the case study that follows, I present a photovoice project and lessons learned for future research with this visual methodology.

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