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Listening Deeply: A Narrative Inquiry into the Experiences of Older Adults in Relation to Place Open Access


Other title
Narrative inquiry
Older adults
Narrative care
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Compton, Roslyn M
Supervisor and department
Caine, Vera (Faculty of Nursing)
Examining committee member and department
Cameron, B. L. (Faculty of Nursing)
Clandinin, D. Jean (Elementary Education)
Estefan, Andrew (Faculty of Nursing, Calgary)
Salami, B. O. (Faculty of Nursing)
Mello, D. (Brazil)
Duggelby, Wendy (Faculty of Nursing)
Faculty of Nursing

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
While living alongside Grandma’s stories of growing older in a small rural town in Australia, I became interested in the stories she told in her living room and what it meant to grow older in a place Grandma called home. As I thought narratively about her stories, I woke to the possibility that her stories of experience were being told within places which also reflected their social, cultural, and institutional significance. The opportunity to explore these experiences drew me further into narrative inquiry and a study in which I engaged with three women—Pauline, Alison, and Sue—who were 80 years and older. My research puzzles, informed by the stories I lived alongside Grandma, both as a granddaughter and nurse, included seeking meaning and understanding in older adults’ stories of experience, particularly those relevant to growing older, stories to live by, and place. As part of the conversations with participants, I gathered field texts which consisted of transcripts, photographs, and memory box items. The narrative accounts were co-composed with participants. Laying the narrative accounts alongside each other, I identified narrative threads which spoke to stories of remembering, imagination and playfulness, stories to live by, personal belongings, moving, feeling safe, and a sense of “not yet”. Together, these threads weave the fabric of place. It was equally important that the stories that participants and I co-composed and chose to tell in the final research texts challenged the status quo of perceiving older adults as a burden, and spoke creatively to the personal, practical, and social significance of our negotiated research texts. The research text describes the tensions in stories between my Grandmas’, my professional stories, and society’s and participants’ stories of what it means to grow older in relation to place. I realized at times I perceived older adults arrogantly, and the stories I lived alongside Grandma of “aging in place” and successful aging became my personal stories of what growing older in relation to place should look like. However, my relationships with Pauline, Alison, and Sue called me to pay attention to my arrogance, and by living alongside their stories, my past understandings shifted significantly and I realized who we are is deeply connected to place. I learned to embrace change within myself and to accept it as ongoing; not only in myself but also in people who surround me. Finally, I learned it is through co-composing stories with participants that I was able to shift narrative care to core care in my nursing practice. By doing so, care begins with experience rather than a person’s age, clinical disease, or diagnosis.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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