The experience of older people living independently in Singapore

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Abstract

Background:

Globally, older people are living independently either alone or with their spouse, population continues to age. In Singapore, some may live with an unrelated older person in a public rental apartment. In Asia, these older people are associated with increased risks of poor health and social isolation, have poorer social support and a poor quality of life. Few studies have explored why these older people choose such living arrangements, the challenges they encountered and what has helped or may help them overcome these challenges.

Aim:

To explore older people's experiences of living independently or with an unrelated older person.

Methods:

This descriptive qualitative study involved face-to-face interviews with 25 informants, 65 years or older in Singapore. Thematic analysis was adopted.

Results:

Five themes emerged: (1) making own choice – participants decided to live apart from their families, (2) contending with concerns – the availability of external resources for participants was shrinking, (3) coping with the available assistance – depending on available external resources from the community, (4) holding on to their values – participants rely on their internal resources to manage, and (5) preparing for the inevitable – participants were planning for their final years of life and for their death.

Conclusion:

Older people have such living arrangements for many reasons. They attain well-being and quality of life by devising strategies, tapping on their limited external resources and relying on their values to manage their diminishing resources and the foreseeable death.

Implications for nursing and/or health policy:

Understanding older people's experiences may help nurses and health professionals to develop health promotion programmes that support older people's everyday needs and help them to stay healthy. Public health policy must support older people to live in a safe environment near their extended family to reduce their need to relocate.

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