‘We are all in this together’: a creative non-fiction story of older adults participating in power-assisted exercise

Samantha Meredith*, Chad Witcher, Chris Wagstaff

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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In this study we aimed to explore older adults’ experience of community-based power assisted (PA) exercise and its potential impact on social exclusion, isolation and loneliness (SEI&L). The lead author obtained ethnographic data over a 6-month period using three primary methods: participant observation (900 hours), a reflexive diary, and 10 semi-structured interviews. Participant observation provided a rich lens into a PA exercise centre describing the scene, characters, and dialogue that enabled the ethnographer to interpret stories of SEI&L. Participants expressing stories of SEI&L (6 service-users, age 66–90 years) and participants working at the centre (3 staff members, age 41–50 years; 1 volunteer, age 69 years) were invited for interviews with the purpose of expanding on data from the field. We used dialogical narrative analysis to construct story themes and meaningful structures from the data that enabled a nuanced understanding of the plots and characters woven into the ethnographic creative non-fiction. Shifting our perspective from story analysts to storytellers, we have constructed two emotionally vibrant composite narratives to show the mechanisms and meanings of SEI&L for older adult exercisers following bereavement in later life and when living with a debilitating chronic health condition. The therapy centre provided a safe and inclusive space for older adults to reconnect through accessible modes of exercise and an atmosphere fostering a sense of belonging and togetherness. This work offers rich insight into older adult’s experiences of community-based exercise and raises awareness of SEI&L to help instigate personal and social change across multiple audiences.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)50-69
Number of pages20
JournalQualitative Research in Sport, Exercise and Health
Issue number1
Early online date23 May 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2023


  • Social exclusion
  • social isolation
  • Loneliness
  • Older adults
  • power-assisted exercise
  • creative analytical practice


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