Исследования здорового старения

Исследования здорового старения
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ISSN: 2261-7434


The meaning of growing old: A lifeworld hermeneutic study on existential matters during the third age of life

Lina Palmer, Maria Nystrom, Gunilla Carlsson, Catharina Gillsjo, Irene Eriksson, Ann-Charlotte Dalheim-Englund

This study investigates existential matters in the third age of life, which encompasses the years after retirement and ends when extensive support needs emerge in the fourth age. As the theoretical starting point in a lifeworld hermeneutic approach, 18 healthy older adults were interviewed about what it means for them to grow old. The interviews were interpreted according to Gadamer’s principles of openness and Ricoeur’s proposal to provide suggestions on how meaning can be explained. The findings are presented in three interpreted themes: Feeling free, Becoming vulnerable, and Existing in closeness to death. The themes are further interpreted, and a comprehensive understanding is reached with theoretical support from Jean-Paul Sartre’s idea of factuality and project. The meaning of growing old is discussed in terms of positive factors, such as healthy aging, transition and gerotranscendence, but also in respect to concerns over future suffering in relation to illness and dependence. It is concluded that the freedom of the third age is greatly appreciated for a healthy life, but also threatened by increased risks of ill health. It is not morbidity in itself that worries most, but the risk of being dependent on care and support from others. This is important to consider when planning and performing care in order to promote a healthy aging.