We have a vision for age-friendly communities in New Hampshire where all older people and their families are supported and can access a wide range of choices to advance their health, independence and dignity.  To create age-friendly places that work for all of of us, we must engage the voices of all communities.  That is why the Endowment for Health is proud to support a photovoice project to do just that.

Photovoice is a nationally recognized, qualitative research method.  It puts cameras in the hands of study participants, empowering them to describe their point of view.

According to Dartmouth researcher Anna Adachi-Mejia, PhD, the photovoice method was used to engage older Granite Staters who haven’t historically had a chance to share their views and perspectives.

“New Hampshire is experiencing growing ethnic diversity,” says Adachi-Mejia.  “Half of our population growth in the last decade has come from minority groups.  We have mapped the population of older adults who are from the Bhutanese, Latino and African American communities, for instance.  Through this research, we’re striving to understand their experience living in New Hampshire and encouraging them to share stories that would otherwise go unheard.”

Through photos, logbooks, surveys and discussion groups, participants who might otherwise shy away from speaking up, found a way to express their needs and to showcase what matters most to them in their families and communities.

“My research process involves community engagement,” says Adachi-Mejia.  “I really enjoy helping to create safe spaces for participants to share their viewpoints in whatever way works best for them.  I use a mixed-methods approach with several types of data collection tools to add to the range of opportunities for participants to share their stories.”

After participants take photos, they meet as a group to discuss the images, spurring deeper conversation that can lead to real changes in the community.  “Perhaps these older people value their time outside in the park, but they need benches and access to bathrooms.  Or perhaps they need better signage on bus routes or shelter from the weather while they are waiting for a ride.  Oftentimes, their photos will illustrate these needs.”

Adachi-Mejia says the photovoice method has also helped participants to build a stronger sense of community, plan for rewarding purpose in life, explore spirituality, and create improvements that allow them to live independent lives.

In the coming months, Adachi-Mejia will work with participants and their communities to share the important themes with decision makers and identify concrete actions steps for improving their experience of aging in New Hampshire.