Exploring the nexus of energy use, ageing, and health
This $98,394 Energy Consumers Australia Research Grant funded project (2017-2019) aimed to provide in-depth understandings of the way that energy use and health and well-being are associated among older Australians, and the ways that they use energy in the home to manage and maintain their health and well-being. To address this aim, the project was guided by the three research questions:
RQ1. What are the statistical associations between health, well-being, domestic energy use, energy costs, place of residence, and household characteristics among older Australians?
RQ2. How are the domestic energy use practices of older Australians who live at home configured by their understandings and experiences of ageing, (ill) health and well-being?
RQ3. How do older Australians negotiate the key domestic energy use challenges to manage health and well-being in the home?
The project drew upon a nexus of social practices framework and featured a three stage, mixed methods research design. Stage 1 featured a baseline survey of older Australian energy consumers assessing their health and well-being status and their energy use practices. Stage 2 involved ethnographic research with 39 older Australian households using narrative interviews and video ethnography home tours to gather insights on the energy, health and well-being practices of participants and help understand how these are imbricated. Stage 3 featured a follow up survey with the same cohort of participants from Stage 2 to assess casual associations between energy, health, and well-being status, practices and outcomes.
The project found that energy, health, and well-being are inexorably linked – therefore policy and programs should take a holistic perspective that acknowledges these associations. Energy stakeholders should recognise that energy not only helps older Australians manage their health but can enable their well-being through performance of various social and leisure activities – therefore policy, programs and advocacy should support an energy well-being agenda. Further work is required to better map the co-benefits that emerge between domestic energy use, health and well-being. Energy stakeholders should seek to build and support the capabilities of older Australians to enable better energy, health and well-being outcomes.