A spot of sunshine, a love of nature, and a desire to make a difference – it’s a simple combination, but together, these three elements could be key to improving physical activity, health, and wellbeing of older South Australians.
In a new research project conducted by the University of South Australia, researchers are exploring the physical and social benefits of older people (aged 50+) participating in environmental citizen science projects.
Supported by the Office for Ageing Well, SA Health and outlined in South Australia’s Plan for Ageing Well 2020-2025, the project aims to identify ways for people to grow and sustain meaningful connections as they age.
Rooted in the environment, the citizen science projects involve weekly guided nature walks with an experienced environmental researcher.
The walks take place in local parks and walking trails across metropolitan Adelaide, where participants photograph and record wildlife observations using an app called iNaturalist.
‘Citizen science’ describes a community-based approach to scientific inquiry by people who are not officially ‘scientists’, but willing to contribute to scientific knowledge by engaging in local projects.
Lead researcher, UniSA’s Professor Craig Williams, says the new study will provide valuable insights for ageing well in South Australia.
“For all of us to live well, we must work towards a future where everyone has the opportunity, support, and encouragement to maintain and develop meaningful connections,” Williams says.
“We also need opportunities that are varied and plentiful, so that we can create meaning and purpose in our lives, no matter what our age.”
This is especially important in an ageing society, where loneliness and isolation have become major societal concerns, Williams says.
“From our previous studies, older South Australians have told us that they’re willing and able to take part in environmentally-based citizen science excursions.
“We also know that older people find these activities engaging and meaningful – they like being able to contribute to environmental science projects, and of course, being around other people.
“But what we don’t know is how environmental citizen science projects can benefit people’s physical health or overall wellbeing.
“This is the focus of our current study.”
The team is now looking for people to take part in the next series of citizen science projects.
- The new UniSA citizen science study requires participants must be aged 50 years or older.
- National Science Week is August 14-22 – scienceweek.net.au