The oldest generation project was concerned with the dynamic nature of older people’s relationships and identities in the context of changing structures of intergenerational support. The aim was to explore how and why certain family relationships endure or change over time, and how these processes affect the lives of the members of the oldest generation.
A particular focus of this research was the marking of relationships and identities among the oldest generation through key events — for example, birthdays and Christmas — and life-changing moments such as births, marriages and deaths. Such events have been shown to be extremely significant, particularly for the oldest generation, marking the passage of time and reflecting continuities and changes in familial and non-familial relationships.
Methods for data collection
The aim was that twelve families would participate in the research project to be followed over a period of eighteen months. In each family, one member over the age of 75 years, ‘the senior’, was to be interviewed and another person in the family, ‘the recorder’, would be asked to keep a diary and take photographs.
Forty families volunteered to participate and twelve were selected to represent various diverse characteristics: age, sex, households, etc. One of the twelve dropped out shortly after the first interview, but was subsequently replaced. Although no further families dropped out, two seniors died over the course of the 18 months. There have been two waves of data collection to date, one in late 2007 and the other in summer 2009.
We then prepared the data for deposit into the Timescapes archive and published articles, focusing on the findings of the project.
The data comprises 24 life history interviews, 3,873 daily diary entries and 824 photographs.