Katie Yankura-Swacha

“I Could Probably Live to Be 100” : A Rhetorical Analysis of Aging and Public Health

Katie Yankura-Swacha

  • School: Purdue University (0183)
  • Degree: Ph.D.
  • Date: 2017 pp: 206
  • Advisor: Bay, Jennifer
  • Source:
  • Subjects: Rhetoric (0681), Technical Communication (0643), Public Health (0573), Aging (0493)
  • ProQuest Document Number: 2128070304
  • ISBN: 9780438539594
  • UMI Number: 10601039

Abstract:

This dissertation addresses how low-income and disabled older adults, a population not typically included in public health discourse or in technical and professional communication scholarship, interacts with and understands discourses of aging and health in their daily lives. Building from a community-based need for improved health communication materials targeted to this population, this dissertation first demonstrates how public health discourse leaves out disadvantaged older adults’ experiences by analyzing five common metaphors for aging that appear in health informational materials and that privilege able-bodied, middle class experiences and biomedical forms of knowledge—aging is pathology, aging is risky, aging is crisis, aging is ageless and aging is contest. I then place that analysis in conversation with the stories of the six low-income, disabled older adults, who participated in this study through photovoice interviews. Drawing on both public health materials and personal accounts allows me to demonstrate how these older adults negotiate scientific knowledge in complex ways to make health decisions in their everyday lives, despite limiting discourses. I then describe the implications of this research for how technical and professional communicators and students can collaborate with divergently-abled populations, like the low-income and disabled older adults in this study, to improve health communication materials. This study takes a community-based approach, centering its focus on the needs of a local senior center for low-income and disabled seniors, and addressing questions and challenges of such community-based research and action.