"In the Middle of Everywhere:" A Phenomenological Study of Mobility and Dwelling Amongst Rural Elders


  • Les Todres Les Todres, Bournemouth University, UK
  • Kathleen T. Galvin University of Hull, UK




phenomenology, hermeneutic phenomenology


This study aimed to investigate the phenomenon of the meaning of mobility for elders living in rural areas. A phenomenological study was undertaken with older people living in rural South West England and Wales. Ten interviews were undertaken in peoples’ homes and focused on the spatial dimensions of what it was like to live in the rural area and the everyday experiences of traversing rural space. Spatial mobility was experienced by our sample as any of the possible ways that achieved personal life activities where the traverse of space was normally relevant. We describe the meaning of mobility sensitised by the terms used in the “continuum of mobilities” (Parkhurst et al., 2012): “literal mobility,” “virtual mobility,” “potential mobility,” and “imaginative mobility.” Our phenomenological findings revealed that the transport and mobility needs of older people living in rural areas could not be meaningfully understood without understanding their well-being priorities, the kinds of movement that constituted well-being, and how this related to the phenomenon of “dwelling,” which included their feeling of “at-homeness” in their rural environment. But also what emerged was a second phenomenon that we have called rural living as a portal to well-being in older people. The connection between well-being and rural place was constituted by two interrelated experiences: the importance of dwelling and slowing down in older age, and the importance of a “rich textured locale” for the well-being of rural older people. We conclude by considering how the elders in our study may have something important to remind us: that mobility and sense of place are mutually implicated and that our present culture places an over emphasis on mobility, which may obscure the value of dwelling.