PhD Personal Statement
I would like to pursue a Doctoral Degree in Child and Family Development from the University of Georgia. I am currently obtaining a masters degree in Gerontology at Miami University of Ohio and I believe that looking at the older population in a family context gives a detailed insight into individuals’ lives and that of their families.
My current research interests involve exploring the lives of older Kenyans and their families with an interest in resiliency behaviors amidst changing socio-economical practices. I look at their life-course trajectory and the phenomena of their lives as linked with that of their family members.
My view is that older people’s lives are an aggregate of personal choices as well as the environmental factors, which include the influences of individuals within the family. I am interested in exploring this topic by mainly employing narrative gerontology, life-span, and life-course perspectives.
My interest in the aging individual within the family context is driven by my own life experiences. As a child I was homeless and spent two years of my life in the streets of Kenya. I saw many older Kenyans, especially women, living in the streets because of losing their property and being taken advantage of by male members of their families.
This experience in particular opened my eye to the issue economic security for older people in Kenya, especially since a good portion of them do not receive any kinds of pensions or social welfare benefits.
Family has major contributions to older people’s quality of life in rural Kenya especially since it provides a safety network for economic, caregiving, and social reasons among others.
Issues like filial piety and pressures of limited resources make it necessary for gerontology scholars to pay attention to the role of the family in the lives of older adults. The concentration on life-span perspective and the interrelationship between individuals, family and their societies are just some of the attributes that has attracted me to pursuing a degree in Child and Family development.
I have worked on several volunteer opportunities, most notably working for the Booker T. Washington Community Center (BTW), where I was able to independently, and successfully write a grant for $ 13, 000. The community center is located in a low SES part of the city and is used as a safe haven for older community members and young children.
My work at the center involved constructing surveys to evaluate programs for seniors and children to recommend changes and fresh ideas. I found that the seniors and children needed a variety of programming outside of the BTW building, a venture that required a means of transport. I decided to write a grant to the United Way for a chance to obtain the funds needed to obtain a new van. Having this experience gave me the tools necessary to write future grants to fund my own research.
This past summer I worked at HelpAge International’s Africa regional office as an assistant policy analyst and principal investigator for the Kenyan portion of an international research project. HelpAge International is an organization that seeks to highlight issues of social protection, emergency, and health issues of older people with an intention of sensitizing policy makers on the same.
This experience reinforced my interests in social protection issues for older Kenyans and their families. I was assigned the responsibility of leading focus group discussions for a project that seeks to evaluate the quality of life for older individuals across the world, ten years post the 2002 Madrid International Plans of Actions on Ageing. Through this research I was given the first hand
I am currently working on a thesis to explore issues of economic security for older Kenyans and their families. I conducted in-depth interviews with eleven older Kenyans in rural parts of Maraigushu with the intent to understand the perceptions and plans for life after active work.
This work was inspired by the recent increase in longevity in developing nations like Kenya and current world economic crisis. At the same time, not only have the traditional family relationships changed in Kenya but also pensions systems do not tend to cover self-employed older people in rural parts of the country.
I have learned through my phenomenological investigation that the issue of income security for older people and their families in the village of Maraigushu is a problem that needs immediate attention from the government. This study is particularly important because limited studies have been done to capture the insider views of older Kenyans regarding their pensions and general plans for income security in old age. This research is a pilot for future studies that will not only inform Kenyan policy makers but also add to the existing knowledge about income security in old age.
Dr. Denise Lewis’s work on aging families, informal caregiving, rural aging, and intercultural comparisons of aging families pick my interest. Given the chance I intend to work closely with Dr. Lewis due to my interest in the qualitative exploration of the aging family, the social networks and how family and culture affect the economic lives of older individuals.
Dr. Lewis has explored intergenerational exchange for Cambodian refugee families with the main issue being the difference that older people face in different cultures that challenge the traditional reciprocation trends for family members.
The situation is a little different for older people within rural families in Kenya in a time that the whole society is undergoing major changes associated with modernization and development transitions. These changes have challenged the traditional resource exchange between generations in the family; raising issues of income security for older individuals after retirement.
Therefore, as previously stated a PhD in child and family development studies at UGA will give me the right tools to work as a researcher in the exploration of income security for aging families in Kenya.