This qualitative study utilized phenomenology to better understand the concept of environmental identity as it relates to older adults. It also brought focus to the topic of environmental education within this demographic. Five participants were interviewed using a semi-structured approach. The interview questions included prompts exploring both environmental identity and environmental education. The first set of prompts asked about participants’ relationship to the natural environment and attitudes and beliefs about the natural environment. The second set of prompts asked about how participants had learned about the natural environment and about trends they had observed regarding proenvironmental behaviors and attitudes across their lifespan. Participants also completed the Environmental Identity Scale (EID). The interviews were transcribed and analyzed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA). Five main themes were identified through use of IPA, each yielding numerous subthemes. The five main themes were as follows: (a) respect, (b) connection, (c) wellbeing, (d) negative environmental impacts, and (e) sources of knowledge.
Participants endorsed a strong affiliation with the natural environment and reflected on many of the positive effects. They also expressed a number of concerns related to the future of the natural environment and current societal trends. Results highlighted the lack of research to date for this particular topic area and demographic. Implications for future research include learning more about older adults’ environmental actions and examining potential age and cohort effects as well as exploring environmental education for older adults.
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