Everyday life amongst the oldest old : descriptions of doings and possession and use of technology

Abstract: The general aim of the present thesis is to expand knowledge about the everyday lives of the oldest old (85+) living independently and to improve and deepen the understanding of their doings and possession and use of technology. The everyday lives of the oldest old represent, in many aspects an under-researched area, partly because this age group is seldom included in national surveys regarding living conditions and time use.This thesis comprises four papers. In paper I the extent and direction of research regarding elderly people is investigated through an examination of articles published in six well-reputed and well-established occupational therapy journals. Fifteen percent of the articles published between 2001 and 2006 included elderly people to some extent. Only five articles were about the oldest old. Most articles had a quantitative approach and concerned instrument development and testing. The findings show that articles concerning the oldest old are sparse, especially regarding their subjective experience. The following three papers are based on data derived from an empirical project based on interviews and observations with 18 oldest old individuals. Paper II explores how individuals over 85 years of age themselves describe and experience daily life. „Doing everyday life‟ is described through five overarching themes: „Experiencing being old‟, „Doings in everyday life‟, „Patterns of the day‟, „Altered doings‟ and „The importance of time‟. The daily doings are described as consisting of the usual things that have always been done, although how the doings are performed have changed. To do something is stressed as important for well-being, and a strong motivation to manage everyday doings on one‟s own is expressed. Paper III explores and describes the experiences and relations to technology in everyday doings of the oldest old as they themselves describe it. Four categories; „Perception of technology‟, „Technology holdings‟, „Handling technology‟ and „Compensatory technology in old age‟ emerged from the material. Technology needs to be integrated into the daily routines for it to be used. A modest and pragmatic attitude towards technology stands out, showing a discrepancy with public policy, which implies that technology will enhance independence and participation for elderly people. In paper IV, data from a younger group (-85) is included to describe, compare and discuss how elderly people belonging to different age cohorts (-85 and 85+) relate to their physical environment, primarily technological objects used in the home, and to examine how this is influenced by experiences and possession of technology over the life course. Possession and use of technological objects are similar for both groups over the life course from the parental home through the family time, although in the senior citizen time differences in technology possession and use appear. At higher ages the chronological age becomes a factor in deciding about upgrading or downsizing of the technology room; this is described as an „aging turn‟.The conclusions drawn are that to continue and perform the everyday doings as one has always done is important in old age. At high ages downsizing of the technology rooms is an important issue and new technological objects need to be incorporated in everyday doings in order to be used and perceived as beneficial.