Identifying the Attentional Demands Perceived by Elderly People


University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, School of Nursing, Eau Claire, WI 54702-4004.


The capacity to direct attention is an essential part of life. However, excessive demand for attention produces difficulty in managing everyday activities and stressful life events. This study identified attentional demands of elderly people. Thirty elderly adults were interviewed to ascertain their perceptions of demands on them in four theoretically derived domains. Physical environmental demands included the weather and living space. Informational demands included facing new situations because of a move or the loss of a spouse as well as vision and hearing difficulties. Behavioral demands mentioned were tasks such as exercising, cooking, being able to drive, dealing with finances, and a loss of stamina. Affective demands mentioned were loneliness and worries and sadness about health and the future. A content analysis of the interview data produced items for an instrument to be used during future interventions with elderly people aimed at decreasing the level of demands and restoring the attentional capacity necessary for functioning at an optimal level. This article also discusses the implications of assessing elderly patients.