Perspectives of Healthy Aging Across Older Adulthood

Dr Hannah Twiddy, 2022 Fulbright Postdoctoral Scholar, Funded by the University of Newcastle

The Fulbright program aims to provide education and cultural exchange, lasting connections, and mutual understanding through international opportunities. Through addressing major challenges around the globe, Fulbright Scholars are able to ensure a significant and lasting impact in host and home countries.

Though my Fulbright experience, I have accomplished the purpose of a Fulbright. Having been in “school” for 10 years with the purpose of gaining a PhD and a dream to conduct international research addressing global challenges that do not recognize borders; my Fulbright Postdoctoral Fellowship provided this opportunity.

One challenge of our time is the global increase in average life expectancy with decreased years of healthy aging. Good health in the later years of life is being impacted resulting in increased resident-care housing causing an increased burden on personal and government spending as well as healthcare-worker burnout. This is a global endemic that does not recognize borders. My Fulbright experience provided an eye-opening understanding that could only have been gained though my host placement.

Perspectives of Healthy Aging Across Older Adulthood: What Defines Subjective Successful Aging was a qualitative exploration into the perspectives of successful-healthy aging from older adults in Australia, the United States, and Costa Rica to gain a cross-cultural, international perspective. Though interviews with study participants, I was able to gain a true perspective of Healthy Aging on the personal level between those I interviewed within each country. Further, attending regional and national conferences allowed me to gain knowledge of Healthy Aging on the research, academic, and local-council level.

Within Newcastle, I sought to integrate and create a home in my host location. A highlight was volunteering for the Making Waves organization who take youth with disabilities sailing on the harbor. To see the joy on these kid’s faces was a highlight, being many had never previously been out on the water. I aim to take this experience and create/join a similar program back home. I joined the Newcastle Cruising Club, whom I sailed with weekly and took part in sailboat deliveries along the East Coast of Australia and Tasmania. I participated in local ocean swimming groups and joined a daily Yoga community. I attended local and regional music, theater, and art events; trying to participate in as many events within the community that I could fit in. Needless to say, I integrated into the community as much as possible and it was hard to say good-bye for now. I will be taking much of what I learned within this community back home with me and work to integrate some of the cultural practices into my lifestyle.

From this experience, I can confirm international collaboration is imperative to addressing global challenges. It is important for researchers in any field to have Fulbright opportunities to be immersed in a culture unknown to them. On both the professional and personal level, this opportunity has and will continue to greatly benefit my career as I pursue independent research in the field of Healthy Aging.

Though my academic research may not follow the “normal” career path, it is the impactful path for my healthy aging. I have learned not to fit into the mold but rather be creative and open to opportunities when they present themselves.