UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Settling in or just settling? Exploring older adults' narratives of relocation to assisted living Rockwell, Jasmyne


Since 2001, British Columbia has seen an expansion in the assisted living (AL) segment of supportive housing for older adults. Values associated with AL typically include independence, choice, self-direction, and autonomy, which position it as an attractive alternative to traditional residential care models or ‘nursing homes.’ Yet, there have been few studies that critically examine AL in the Canadian context. Such investigations are important because of the variation in AL facilities internationally. Also, there is lack of research generally on the significance of the transition to AL for older adults or what their experiences are once they have arrived. The purpose of this study was therefore to explore older adults’ narratives of moving to AL, in order to learn about their relocation experiences and how they fit with the overarching goals and values of AL. To do this, the study employed thematic content analysis of 18 provincially-focused, publicly available documents about AL. Collectively, the documents addressed both service users and providers and spoke to expectations and regulations for service delivery. The study also employed multi-level narrative analysis of four older adults' relocation stories, gathered over the period of a year. Findings from the study indicate that there are tensions between the foundational values and purposes of AL, how these are operationalized at the facility level, and how they are experienced by those moving in. While participants were generally pleased with the supportive and health care services they accessed by relocating, their accounts also highlighted a lack of social connection within AL and restrictions to choice in a variety of areas including dining and recreational pursuits. However, the findings also illuminate positive and innovative practices that can ease the transition to AL. Recommendations include: 1) finding avenues for residents to express their choices in meaningful ways, such as increasing resident input at an organizational level and expanding the type of activities offered; and 2) offering more deliberate facilitation of social and place connections in AL through an increased role for social workers in AL, peer support programs, and stronger community ties.

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