Feeling old: being in a phase of transition in later life

M Nilsson, A Sarvimäki, S L Ekman
Nursing Inquiry 2000, 7 (1): 41-9
The aim of the study was to illuminate very old persons' experiences of feeling old in order to get a nuanced understanding of the ageing process in later life. Fifteen persons 85-96 years of age, living in their own homes, were interviewed in-depth. Data were analysed utilising a phenomenological-hermeneutic approach. Eight persons reported that they felt old. The experience of feeling old entailed four characteristics: being able to date the beginning of feeling old, fear of helplessness and of being unable to manage one's life situation, not recognising one's former self, and feeling different from others. These characteristics corresponded to the main properties of a transition process. The comprehensive understanding was that the very old persons who also felt old were in a phase of transition. The distinguishing qualities of those that felt old were also found to be in line with the dystonic dominance in the ninth stage designated by Joan Erikson of the previously described life cycle. Knowledge about transition processes and sensitivity to very old people's experiences of feeling old are of great importance to nursing in order to provide adequate health care services and prevent unhealthy transitions.


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