Mikkol Macabali, 21, has spent 10 weeks researching and interviewing residents at Oceania Elmwood Village residential aged-care home in Manurewa as part of the University of Auckland’s Summer Research Scholarship scheme.

In his results, presented as video interviews, friendship emerges as the most important factor in living well.

“The key to flourishing in residential aged-care was through forming meaningful relationships with staff or other residents,” Mikkol says.

“Socialisation was very important for the both mental and emotional wellbeing of all residents. It goes to show it’s never too late to make a new best friend.”

Mikkol’s research was titled: What gives you meaning and makes you happy?:A pilot project exploring the views of people living in residential aged care about what they need to live well in advanced age.

“My aim was to uncover the residents’ own perspectives by directly asking what makes them happy and what they need to live well in an aged-care facility,” he says.

The research was supervised by Associate Professor and Nurse Practitioner, Dr Michal Boyd, an expert in gerontology, and Dr Lisa Williams, a Research Fellow in the School of Nursing.

Dr Williams says while it is well-known that the population of older people is rapidly increasing, and even though many older people may require 24-hour care due to increasing frailty, it is important to seek ways to keep them connected socially.

She adds using digital stories as a research method can be extremely effective in engaging participants in the research process. The end product is also easy to access and easy to share.

Dr Boyd adds the project is important because it promotes an appreciation of older people as valued members of the wider community.

Mikkol hopes the digital stories will help the aged-care sector and his fellow students at the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences to better understand the importance of social culture in retirement facilities.

“Digital stories make this research more accessible to the aged-care sector and to young practitioners wanting to better understand how to effectively work with the elderly,” he says.

Mikkol has a long-term interest in improving aged-care which began at secondary school, when he volunteered at his local rest-home in West Auckland, before going on to study nursing.

The University of Auckland Summer Research Scholarship scheme gives senior undergraduate students the opportunity to work within a research environment, mixing with researchers and postgraduate students at the forefront of their fields.

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