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Women's perceptions of life after 70 : a phenomenological study Sloss, Theresa Anne


This study was designed to gain an understanding of how older women perceive their lives. In order to gain this insight the qualitative research methodology of phenomenology was selected. Data collection and analysis occurred concurrently. Data were collected through fifteen unstructured interviews. Eight women whose ages ranged from 75 to 88, and who lived on their own in the community participated in the study. Each transcribed interview was analyzed separately and in relation to the other interviews. Emerging themes were validated and clarified in the second interview. The themes were synthesized and then integrated into the final framework called the cycle of contentment. The cycle of contentment had four phases: having independence and connectedness (sources of contentment), experiencing threats, calling upon resources and redefining independence and connectedness. Contentment was a form of happiness preferred by the women and was characterized by calmness and freedom from uneasiness. Independence and connectedness were identified as the two main sources of contentment. Independence was composed of self-reliance, not having to inconvenience others and of being in control of daily events and personal affairs. Connectedness was equated with a sense of belonging with family and friends and being involved and aware of what was happening in the world. Unfortunately, life over 70 for these women was accompanied by many threats which disrupted their independence and connectedness and thus their contentment. The threats noted in the study were: the death of a spouse, death of friends, health problems and the adverse attitudes and actions of others. In response to the threats the women called upon their resources to counteract the impact of the threats. Two types of resources were noted in the study: external and internal. External resources included finances, family, friends and helpful neighbors. Internal resources included faith, memories, self-confidence, a fighting spirit and personal attributes which were somewhat unique to this stage of their lives. By drawing upon their resources it was possible to move to the next phase of the cycle, that of redefining independence and connectedness. This redefinition occurred in three ways. The women found new ways of experiencing independence and connectedness, they normalized common threats and they reappraised their situations. Once independence and connectedness were redefined, contentment returned. These findings were discussed in relation to relevant literature. The implications for nursing practice, education and research were then identified.

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