What does quality of life mean to older adults? a thematic synthesis

Karen M. van Leeuwen, Miriam S. van Loon, Fenna A. van Nes, Judith E. Bosmans, Henrica C. W. de Vet, Johannes C. F. Ket, Guy A. M. Widdershoven, Raymond W. J. G. Ostelo

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleAcademicpeer-review

49 Citations (Scopus)
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BACKGROUND: Consideration of older adults' quality of life (QoL) is becoming increasingly important in the evaluation, quality improvement and allocation of health and social care services. While numerous definitions and theories of QoL have been proposed, an overall synthesis of the perspective of older adults themselves is lacking.

METHODS: Qualitative studies were identified in PubMed, Ebsco/Psycinfo and Ebsco/CINAHL, through a search on 28 November 2018. Articles needed to meet all of the following criteria: (i) focus on perceptions of QoL, (ii) older adults living at home as main participants, (iii) use of qualitative methodology, (iv) conducted in a Western country and (v) published in English (vi) not focused on specific patient groups. A thematic synthesis was conducted of the selected studies, using the complete 'findings/results' sections from the papers.

RESULTS: We included 48 qualitative studies representing the views of more than 3,400 older adults living at home in 11 Western countries. The QoL aspects identified in the synthesis were categorized into nine QoL domains: autonomy, role and activity, health perception, relationships, attitude and adaptation, emotional comfort, spirituality, home and neighbourhood, and financial security. The results showed that although different domains can be distinguished, these are also strongly connected.

CONCLUSION: QoL can be expressed in a number of domains and related subthemes that are important for older adults living at home. The findings further support that the concept of QoL should be seen as a dynamic web of intertwined domains.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0213263
Number of pages39
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 8 Mar 2019


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