Good Practice Stories

Alone Together – creatively capturing the voices of culturally and linguistically diverse older people


Dayani Alone Together


Alone Together is a visually rich, emotional story presented in The Guardian. It’s an accessible and powerful way to present research to a wide audience.
The project asks how do older people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds connect with family, friends and services during periods of physical distancing and lockdowns?

We spoke with lead researcher Dr Ruth De Souza about the project. Ruth is a nurse & RMIT researcher in race, gender, health & digital technologies.


ruth de souza cirlce


Ruth: In 2020 we interviewed 10 culturally and linguistically diverse older people. We asked them how they’re experiencing COVID, how the physical distancing measures are affecting them. And whether technology is having an impact on social relationships and access to health care.

What’s the one thing that stood out for you from the research?

How important intergenerational relationships are. One of the women we interviewed said, “Look my husband could teach me how to do this but it’s way more fun when my grandchildren show me.” This leaves me asking what kind of intergenerational support can we facilitate?

Why did you decide to present the research as an illustrated story?

I thought, imagine if the output was visually heavy, rather than text heavy, so it could reach a wider audience. So I approached this fabulous graphic artist Safdar Ahmed.


ring my son Alone Together


What has been the response?

One of the participants said her grandchildren are really happy her story is being told. Another was just delighted that their story could be told. The thing that’s been amazing has been the reach and impact of this work. I’ve had lots of messages from people. It’s really touched a wide range of people’s hearts. It makes me really happy that the stories are traveling, in a form that’s relatable.

We’ve got an emerging group of older people who are going to need love, care and support in the next 20 years. And I think there’s an opportunity for services to be culturally responsive and culturally safe in ways that can make ageing a positive experience for a group that are often vulnerable, scared and lonely but who have so much knowledge and wisdom to share.


Teddy Bear Alone Together


Where to next?
Alone Together was a pilot. The team is discussing options for future projects. I’d love to talk with carers. So that might be in a later project. We wanted to conduct the project in the participant’s preferred language using NAATI accredited interpreters and translators. But we didn’t have the funding. We’d love to be able to do that with the next project.

The research was carried out by an interdisciplinary team from RMIT University, the University of Melbourne, Monash University, Bendigo Health and the Victorian Department of Justice and Community Safety. Alone Together was funded by The RMIT ECP Fairer Start Initiative.


Thank you for chatting with us Ruth.

To check out Alone Together click here.