, Volume 14, Issue 4, pp 1111-1125

On loss of activity and independence, adaptation improves life satisfaction in old age – a qualitative study of patients’ perceptions

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Abstract

The purpose was to improve the understanding of factors are perceived by elderly people as important for their life satisfaction, during and after rehabilitation. Fifteen persons aged 80–94 years were interviewed while in hospital and on two follow-up occasions after discharge. Assessment of motor function using the General Motor Function assessment scale was used for descriptive purposes. Three themes emerged as important for life satisfaction: activity, independence and adaptation. Activity and independence were considered significant for life satisfaction. Basic activity preferences were related to care of one’s own body and to social contacts. Control and influence over help and services were regarded as important. Different strategies for adaptation to the consequences of disease were used: reorganisation, interaction with caregivers, mental adaptation and mental activities (used as pastime and escape). Those with declined motor functions limited their activity preferences. A key finding was that pleasant past memories were actively recalled in an effort to achieve current life satisfaction. This adaptation strategy created a sense of life satisfaction, however with a potential risk for concealing dissatisfaction with conditions that might otherwise be correctable. Strategies for improving life satisfaction among old people in rehabilitation are suggested.