Dorothy is a part-time PhD candidate with the Ageing, Work and Health Research Unit of the Faculty of Health Sciences, The University of Sydney, Australia. Her sociological research project, “Understanding personal goals in retirement and their relationship with life satisfaction: an Australian perspective” explores the existence and nature of personal goals held by Australian retirees aged 55 to 90 years. Findings from an initial phase of quantitative research were presented at the 13th National Conference of Emerging Researchers in Ageing held in Adelaide in 2014. Her oral presentation “Greener pastures? A portrait of life satisfaction among older Australians” was awarded the best presentation by an Australian Association of Gerontology student member. Based on the qualitative research component of her thesis, she presented an oral presentation titled “The busy-ness of retirement: personal goals, diaries and to-do lists” at the Australian Association of Gerontology National Conference in November 2016, and a poster presentation titled “Goal-Setting Typologies Evident Among Community-Dwelling Australian Retirees” at the 21st International Association of Gerontology and Geriatrics World Congress of Gerontology and Geriatrics in July 2017.
Dorothy is a student affiliate of the ARC Centre of Excellence in Population Ageing Research (CEPAR), a student member of the Australian Association of Gerontology and a full member of the Australian Market and Social Research Society.
Dorothy’s career has been as a commercial social researcher and an educator. Over the past 25 years she has held a range of positions as a qualitative specialist in international research consultancies. For 15 years her focus has been on government and social research and social trends, conducting developmental and evaluative studies informing a range of social policies and programs.
She has held sessional educator positions lecturing in the under-graduates units Contemporary Social Issues and Applied Social Research at the Australian College of Applied Psychology. Additionally, she co-designed the Applied Social Research unit course materials and conducted a qualitative evaluation of the Foundations of Online Learning and Teaching Course. Over the past 10 years she has run qualitative research training sessions and mentored junior researchers in her commercial research roles.
Dorothy’s interest in qualitative methodologies led to her collaboration with Dr Melanie Randle and Professor Hugh Mackay from the University of Wollongong, Australia, on a project comparing group-based research methods. The findings of this study were presented in a paper titled “Do strangers in strange places say strange things? A pilot study examining alternative methods of group-based research” at the Australian Market and Social Research Society Annual Conference in Melbourne 2012, and were also published as a paper titled “A comparison of group-based research methods” in Market & Social Research (Vol. 22, No. 1) in June 2014.
Life Satisfaction in Retirement: The Influence of Health Status on Australian Retirees’ Perceptions
Research on life satisfaction in retirement has typically employed quantitative survey methods such as rating scales to measure overall retiree life satisfaction and wellbeing, including showing that self-reported health is a key characteristic related to satisfaction during retirement. However, there has been relatively limited qualitative research examining how retirees view their health and how this relates to their overall life satisfaction. This paper contributes to this gap in the research by qualitatively exploring this less well-understood aspect through the personal experiences of participants.
The research findings are based on data gathered in a series of paired and individual in-depth interviews with 60 semi- and fully-retired community-dwelling Australians aged between 55 and 90 years. Drawing on this qualitative data, a number of cases are presented as examples that clearly illustrate how health, both mental and physical, has shaped the retirement experience and how this has influenced perceptions of life satisfaction. Three key themes were identified from our analysis: (1) health status has an important influence on life satisfaction; (2) the relationship between health status and perceptions of life satisfaction is nuanced and complex; and (3) the ability to successfully manage health and any health conditions is important in setting and achieving retirement goals. This paper concludes that it is satisfaction with the management of health conditions and the successful adaptation of lifestyle goals, rather than health status per se, which underpins the influence of health as a life domain on overall life satisfaction.