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Argonauts of Aotearoa : voyages of alternative ageing via the movanner archipelago : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Social Anthropology, Massey University, Albany, New Zealand
Older people driving motor homes are increasingly commonplace on our roads. This
research focuses on senior New Zealanders who identify themselves as ‘movanners’ as
opposed to ‘house truckers’ or ‘tourists’; and in particular on single full-timers. These
mobile, single seniors communicate constantly regarding their locations and future
plans. They often travel familiar paths, repeating the same journey route and utilising
as their ‘places’ the well-known margins of the road, unnoticed by other traffic and
beneficial to senior movanners’ mobility. This study argues that they have appropriated
‘cool’ new technologies (as opposed to the technologies of disability and deterioration
often associated with older people), to retain their independence, enable their journeys
and achieve ageing wellbeing in mobility. Senior movanners exploit connections to
build network capital resulting in concrete benefits for their successful mobile lives.
The field research was conducted over three years and consisted of interviews and less
formal conversations with senior movanners, auto-ethnography, as I hired
motorhomes to travel myself, and mobile participant observation in the motorhome of
one of my single female participants. In addition, I collected quantitative data by
tracking two key informants who each carried a GPS device which enabled me to view
their journey tracks retrospectively and collaboratively. Family relationships are well
maintained, although reconstructed to fit in with their mobility. Through network
capital and technology utilisation they have recreated the ‘roadlands’ as a social space,
forming causeways for what I have termed ‘The Movanner Archipelago’.