Being old and living alone in urban areas: the meaning of self-care and health on the perception of life situation and identity
Kari Sundsli,1,2, Geir Arild Espnes,3 Olle Söderhamn2
1Department of Social Work and Health Science, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, 2Centre for Caring Research – Southern Norway, Faculty of Health and Sport Sciences, University of Agder, Grimstad, Norway; 3Research Centre for Health Promotion and Resources, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway
Background: Living alone in urban areas when getting old is an important and necessary field for research as the growth of the urban population worldwide increases, and due to the fact that people live longer. How older people manage their self-care and health, and how this might influence their identity and life situation may be very important to understand when planning for a new, upcoming older generation. The aim of this study was to elucidate the meaning of self-care and health for the perception of life situation and identity among single-living older individuals in urban areas in southern Norway.
Methods: A phenomenological–hermeneutic approach inspired by Ricoeur was applied. Nine single-living older persons in urban areas, 70–82 years of age, and identified to be in good health were interviewed. The interviews were audiotaped, transcribed verbatim, and analyzed using a phenomenological–hermeneutic method.
Results: Strength and a time dimension characterized the meaning of self-care and health for the perception of life situation and identity as narrated by the group of single-living older individuals in urban areas in southern Norway. The informants were, as older individuals, caring, autonomous, and robust characters, who had gone through difficult times in life, and in a resilient way moved towards a new future. They valued and were grateful for what they had learned in their lives and could go forward and still experience and explore.
Conclusion: Self-care is significant in the perception of life situation and identity among single urban older people in this study, and characterized by strength, temporality, gratitude, autonomy, and natality. Society needs to acknowledge the strengths and capabilities of older people to a greater extent.
Keywords: aged, health promotion, phenomenological–hermeneutic method, salutogenesis, time
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