Older adults' experiences of a pandemic : how foods, routines, and socialisation have been impacted by COVID-19 : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science (by thesis) in Psychology at Massey University, Albany, New Zealand
The objective of this research study was to investigate the experiences of older adults in New Zealand during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, with a specific focus on how food habits were impacted. A great deal of disaster research fails to recognise first-hand experience, with an even greater shortage of research investigating how older adults cope during disasters. Such research is imperative in order to fully prepare to effectively support older adult populations during such disasters as the COVID-19 pandemic. Gaining first-hand experience via semi-structured interviews is an effective way to comprehend these experiences. In the present study, semi-structured interviews were conducted with six older adults in New Zealand: four from the small town of Morrinsville and two from the large city of Auckland. A media analysis was also conducted to better understand the context of these experiences: news articles, government documents, and seniors’ newsletters were analysed. Thematic analysis was used to identify common themes, with the overarching theme being that of resilience: each of the participants demonstrated a high degree of resilience throughout the pandemic lockdown. However, there existed a great deal of concern over being a burden to others as most of the participants were unable to do their own shopping due to government restrictions. All participants also experienced dramatically reduced socialisation and freedom, which proved challenging for the capable and independent people they were. The participants understood the reasons for having to stay at home and were supportive of the government’s decisions. They spoke of following the rules and the strategies used to protect themselves if they did go out. The participants were proactive in maintaining their routines as part of maintaining healthy habits and eating well. They recognised the crucial importance of staying in contact with friends and family. These older adults were resilient, proactive, and accepting in the face of adversity. Implications for future research include investigating older adults of other socio-economic statuses where resilience may be impacted by financial constraints. Additionally, investigating the role of culture, and especially the difference between collectivist and individualist cultures on the experience of a disaster would be valuable.