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Older adults' experiences during the 2019/2020 bushfires: The path through life project
This qualitative analysis gave a voice to older adults (aged 59-65 years and 78-87 years) to share their experiences of the 2019/2020 Australian bushfires. At baseline, the study recruited 7,485 adults in three age cohorts of 20-24 (‘20s cohort - birth years 1975-79), 4044 (40s cohort - birth years 1956-60) and 60-64 years (60s cohort - birth years 1937-1941). The 2019/2020 bushfire season in Australia was one of the most severe in recorded history, with catastrophic effects. Over 24 million hectares were burnt, and many Australians were directly or indirectly impacted by the fires.
Themes identified from participant responses included anger and frustration towards government, experiences of loss, sadness and frustration at the impact on the environment and wildlife, and physical and mental health impacts. Many participants reported feeling distress and anxiety for their own welfare and the welfare of others, however many also expressed gratitude for support from others and a change in perspective with renewed appreciation of what is important to them. The range of experiences reported by participants in this study, from minor impacts to lengthy direct involvement in fire-fighting activities, provide valuable insights into the experiences of older adults during major bushfire events.