Growing old gracefully - truth or fiction?

Date: 02/12/2002

How do older people feel about their self-image? A new national survey by the University of Western Sydney is recruiting participants to find out.

Research programs manager at the Self-concept Enhancement and Learning Facilitation (SELF) Research Centre, Garry Richards, says it's a largely unexplored field of study.

"There are plenty of Government statistics available on how many older people there are in Australia, where they live, their incomes and health problems," Mr Richards says.

"But the question of how they feel about physical ageing and not being able to undertake the activities they used to enjoy in their youth has been largely ignored until now.

"Our Physical Issues for Older People study will look into how participants feel about their physical appearance and abilities, and how that affects their lives," he says.

"Do they stop playing sport because they don't feel as fit or agile as they used to? Do they change the style of their clothing because they think they've put on or lost weight? Is their confidence faltering because they're developing wrinkles or sunspots?

"Self-image does affect how you interact with others, and we want to find out how people respond to the physical realities of growing older," he says.

Mr Richards says interested participants aged over 55 will be asked to fill in a questionnaire, which takes around 30 minutes to complete.

"The questions relate to how older people feel physically, as well as some general demographic information. The survey doesn't cover medical issues - it simply relates to body image, physical capabilities and personal appearance.

"The responses will help us understand the essential factors for maintaining a long and healthy life," Mr Richards says.

The UWS Human Research Ethics Committee has approved the study and questionnaire forms can be filled out anonymously.

Mr Richards encourages older Australians to take part in the research.

"We'd like to learn more about how people cope with growing older, and whether issues like fitness and personal appearance are still important to them," he says.

For more information, contact SELF Researcher Jeannine Stiller on 02-9772 6570 or Garry Richards on 02-9772 6434 or

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