Successful ageing in an area of deprivation: Part 1—A qualitative exploration of the role of life experiences in good health in old age

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Gilhooly, M. ; Hanlon, P.W. ; Mowat, H. ; Cullen, B. ; Macdonald, S. ; Whyte, B. (2007)

Objectives: To determine the life histories and current circumstances of healthy and unhealthy older people who share an ecology marked by relative deprivation and generally poor health.\ud \ud Study design: In-depth interview study with a qualitative analysis.\ud \ud Methods: Matched pairs of healthy and unhealthy ‘agers’ were interviewed face-to-face. Healthy ageing was assessed in terms of hospital morbidity and self-reported health. Study participants consisted of 22 pairs (44 individuals), aged 72–89 years, matched for sex, age and deprivation category, and currently resident in the West of Scotland. All study participants were survivors of the Paisley/Renfrew (MIDSPAN) survey, a longitudinal study commenced in 1972 with continuous recording of morbidity and mortality since.\ud \ud Detailed life histories were obtained which focused on family, residence, employment, leisure and health. This information was supplemented by more focused data on ‘critical incidents’, financial situation and position in social hierarchies.\ud \ud Results: Data provided rich insights into life histories and current circumstances but no differences were found between healthy and unhealthy agers.\ud \ud Conclusions: It is important to understand what differentiates individuals who have lived in circumstances characterized by relative deprivation and poor health, yet have aged healthily. This study collected rich and detailed qualitative data. Yet, no important differences were detected between healthy and unhealthy agers. This is an important negative result as it suggests that the phenomenon of healthy ageing and the factors that promote healthy ageing over a lifetime are so complex that they will require even more detailed studies to disentangle.
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