Older women's expereinces of ageing and health related issues in Ireland
Tuohy, Hanora Dympna
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Background: A challenge of an increasing ageing population is the ‘feminisation of ageing’. Worldwide women live longer than men and this pattern is replicated in Ireland. It is important that health care professionals and policy makers understand and respond to older women’s views and needs so as to continue to develop and strengthen health and social care services and supports. However, this must be considered in context of the specific healthcare system. Women’s health issues and experiences of ageing have been explored in other countries but there is little published from an Irish perspective. Aim: The study explored older Irish women’s experiences of ageing and health related issues. Method: Interpretive phenomenology, specifically the “Vancouver School of doing Phenomenology” (Halldórsdottir, 2000) was chosen as an appropriate methodology to guide this study’s research design. Co-researchers were selected using purposive and snowball sampling. Data were collected using individual in-depth interviews with 23 older women. Data were analysed following the 12 steps of the Vancouver School of doing Phenomenology framework. This involved developing individual case constructions and meta-synthesis of these. Findings: Ageing and health are interlinked and impact on each other. This interconnectedness is reflected in the overall experience. ‘Retaining autonomy within a process of adaptation and continued engagement’ describes the essential meaning of the co-researchers’ experiences. Four themes were found to comprise the overarching meaning of this experience: ‘Being in control: Balancing needs and supports’; ‘Navigating a changing world’; ‘Being connected and involved’; ‘Trying to stay well’. Discussion and Implications: Older women’s experiences are more than the sum of the different aspects of their experiences and the findings provide a holistic view of the meaning of these. From a phenomenological perspective, the women’s experiences were situated in spatiality (lived space), temporality (lived time), corporeality (lived body) and relationality (lived human relation) and contextualised within the socio-political-cultural and economic context of Ireland. The findings demonstrate that autonomy, adaptation and continued engagement are important factors to consider in planning and developing services for older women. Conclusion: The views and needs of older women should be responded to and recommendations are provided for health and social care delivery; health care professional education and policy development.