Sampling, recruitment, data collection and analysis

Sampling and recruitment


The research sample consists of two groups of participants who met  specific inclusion criteria:  6 younger adults (20-35 years of age) and 6 older adults (65-80 years of age); 1) English speaking; 2) live in the Great Victoria area (including Sidney, Saanich and the Western Communities); 3) and agree to create six photographs that would illustrate their perceptions of age and aging in contemporary society, which would then be discussed with me in an open-ended qualitative interview, some of which would be included on the website.

Purposive (criterion) sampling was employed. In order to address gender and class representation (Palys, 2008), Maximum variation purposive sampling was applied, but because recruitment proved more challenging than  anticipated,  only  two participants using this approach (one from each age group) were recruited..

The final data were drawn from 16 in-person qualitative interviews conducted in 2017-2018 with participants from the Greater Victoria area and Western communities, including 92 participant photos or images created with collage, with 81 usable photos/images for the website. The discrepancy in this number is due to variation in the number of photos taken per person, combined with copyright protection on some images. There were 18 additional participants who initially were interested in the research, but did not qualify due to age criteria or withdrew for a number of reasons that included: 1) did not want to take photographs or produce images for the website; 2) were too busy; and 3) no reason given, and either declined through email or disappeared (did not respond to email or phone call follow-up).

Sample size: 16 total participants. In the 65-80-year-old age group there were 11 participants (n=8 females and n=3 males); and in the 20-35-year-old age group there were 5 total participants (n=3 females and n=2 males).

Demographics for the older group of participants:

  • Marital status: married = 6 (3 males, 3 females); divorced = 3 females; widowed = 2 females
  • Sexuality: heterosexual =10; Lesbian =1
  • Education: 10 had post-secondary education (MA = 2; BA = 4; Diploma in Public Administration = 1; RN training = 3) Unknown = 1
  • Retirement status: 10 retired; 1 semi-retired
  • Socio-economic status: financially secure = 10; low income = 1

Demographics for the younger group of participants:

  • Marital status: n=3 married/common law (2 females,1 male,); n=2 single (1 female, 1 male)
  • Sexuality: n=4 heterosexual; n=1 homosexual
  • Education: post-secondary education n=4 3 BA (1 BA+ teaching certificate; 1 BA + completed MA in 2020; 1 high school diploma
  • Working/student status: n=3 full-time employment; 2 students (1 MA student, 1 PhD student, both employed part-time too)


Recruitment began in  December 2016 and ended in March 2018. A variety of strategies were employed to maximize recruitment capacity. Recruitment took place in different settings using both purposive (criterion and maximum variation) (Palys, 2008) and convenience sampling (Battaglia, 2008) in an  attempt to obtain older participants from a range of socioeconomic backgrounds. I contacted community and seniors’ centres that included James Bay Community Centre, Fernwood Community Centre, Quadra Village Community Centre Silver Threads, and the Monterey Centre. In addition, ListServes were utilized through the University of Victoria (UVic) and Victoria College Faculty of Education alumni organizations and the Institute on Aging and Lifelong Health (IALH).

To recruit younger adults in both academic disciplines and trades, postering was done at UVic and Camosun College campuses. In addition, postering (at places such as coffee shops and fast-food outlets [where allowed]) and snowball sampling was used to engage younger adults from a variety of socioeconomic and educational backgrounds. UVic’s Institute on Aging and Lifelong Health’s ListServe also proved very helpful in this regard. Convenience sampling (Battaglia, 2008), drawing on my social networks as a recruitment strategy, also proved to be useful and necessary.

As reflected in research studies in general, ensuring that individuals from the lower socioeconomic level of society are represented in research was challenging. However, I tried to access individuals from this more marginalized segment of society by contacting community centres, such as Quadra Village Community Centre and Fernwood Community Centre, in order to access older (and younger) adults from this population as possible participants. I was invited to give a brief presentation about my research at the Fernwood Community Centre which resulted in obtaining one participant in the older age group.  A conversation at the James Bay Community Centre with a volunteer also produced a positive outcome – one participant signed up for the research and another came through her via word of mouth (snowball sampling). And through my own contacts I was able to recruit one participant from a lower socioeconomic level than the other participants.

Data collection and data analysis

Data collection and analysis

Applying a qualitative arts-based methodological approach, informed by critical gerontological theory (Minkler & Estes, 1998; Estes, 1999) and the political economy of aging (Estes, 2001; Phillipson, 1998) my research was conducted in 3 stages which were as follows:

Stage Ia: Data collection (creation of participant photographs/images): In order to address research objective #1: “The identification of perceptions of the representations of age, aging and ageism found in Western media and popular culture (broadly defined),” the 16 participants from the two different age groups of participants (20-35 years of age and 65-80 years of age), created  photographs or collage images that were later discussed in individual interviews.

Participant photographs:  Both groups of participants were asked to create 6 photographs or images (2 images or photographs for each question/topic) that addressed these topics:

  • The first two photographs should focus on your interpretation of old age as typically depicted in the media and popular culture.
  • The second two photographs should illustrate examples of what old age is or actually looks like to you, irrespective of what society and media depict as old age.
  • The last two photographs should reflect your vision of how you would like old/older age to be portrayed in media and popular culture.

Prior to the interviews, I met briefly with the participants to explain the research; discuss the participant consent forms; and provide each participant with a list of questions to follow for their photographs. Interview consent forms (Statement of Informed Consent) were signed during the initial discussion with potential participants. Participant Photo Consent forms: Statement of Use Form (Photo Consent for Participants), and Agreement of Use Form (Photo Consent for Photographic Subjects), were left with the participant to be signed when photos were taken before their in-person interview. Any of the photographs that depicted people were required to have signed Photo Consent for Photographic Subjects forms in order for the photos to be used on the website or conference presentations. Copyright restrictions were also explained for those participants wishing to use magazine or online images.

Stage Ib: Data collection (participant interviews): Following the completion of the participant photographs/images, autodriven photo elicitation (drawing on photovoice) was incorporated into individual qualitative semi-structured interviews conducted with each participant in an audio recorded interview during individual interview sessions. as the primary method of data collection. Interviews were conducted between July 12, 2017 and February 26, 2018. Each participant interview was approximately 1.5 hours in length.

There were 92 total photographs, although 7 images (from magazines or online ads or movie stills) could not be used due to copyright restrictions, and 4 images were ineligible as they did not have signed photo subject consents for the identifiable people in the photographs. The copyright protected images and the photos lacking signed subject consents were used in the in-person interview discussions but could not be used on the website. This left a total of 81 photographs or images that could be used on the website. The majority of the photographs were new, original photographs taken by the participants, but in some instances, participants included older photos of their parents or friends, while some photos also included themselves with family or friends. Because many of the photographs overlapped in theme, the ones chosen for the website were based on the most expressive representations for each theme page.

Transcriptions: Interviews were recorded with a digital MP3 recorder and later transcribed. All but 2 of the interviews (which I transcribed) were transcribed by a professional transcriptionist who signed an Oath of Confidentiality before transcribing the interviews. The participant interviews clients were transcribed almost verbatim, omitting words such as ‘um,’ ‘you know,’ and ‘uh.’

Stage IIData analysis: To identify themes and issues emerging from the research and prior to beginning the production of the website, a content and interpretive analysis informed by a perspective grounded in critical gerontology and political economy were applied to the photographic and interview data collected during Stage I. With a flexible approach to the issues surrounding aging and ageism and a research methodology based in the principles of visual methods and ABR, this research had an emphasis on emergent design, which was flexible and allowed for the discovery of new and unexpected ideas to emerge from the participant photographs and interview sessions (Morgan, 2008).

Stage III – Website creation: The primary purpose of the website, which is the format for the dissertation, is to function as an educational tool that can be used in K-12 schools, colleges and universities, community and senior seniors and by the general public. The website highlights the photographic images and audio clips of the participants that are accompanied by discussion and analysis. Seven themes were determined during data analysis which are as follows: The ‘cult of youth’ and the anti-aging industry; Healthy aging; Time, creativity and relationships; Frailty and care; Gender and class – bias and inequality; What is old age?; and Moving beyond stereotypes. Each theme page also contains embedded links to concepts/definitions and statistics of importance to each theme (ageism, internalization, neoliberalism, etc.). In addition, the menu provides links to detailed academic information about the research, including: the objectives of the research; literature review and theoretical perspective; the methodological approach (comprised of the the arts-based qualitative methods used); sampling, recruitment, data collection and analysis; reflections of the researcher; references; acknowledgements; and copies of the recruitment poster and interview questions and guidelines for the participant photographs.