• gerontology nursing;
  • gerontological care;
  • gerontological theory;
  • gerotranscendence

A qualitative study of nursing staff members’ interpretations of signs of gerotranscendence

Aims. This study was conducted in Sweden and investigated whether nursing staff working with old people could recognize signs of gerotranscendence and, if so, how they interpreted such signs. Another aim was to describe how the staff addressed and cared for older people, 65 and older, showing signs of gerotranscendence.

Background. The theory of gerotranscendence is a theory that, present a new understanding of the ageing process. Gerotranscendence is regarded as a natural developmental process, and the term transcendence implies a shift in an older person’s meta-perspective and a new outlook on reality.

Methods. Proceeding from Tornstam’s description of signs of gerotranscendence, an interview guide was designed, qualitative interviews performed and the theory of gerotranscendence was used as the basis for the qualitative analysis.

Findings. Findings showed that staff working with old people noticed signs of gerotranscendence. However, their interpretations were highly variable; in some cases such signs were interpreted as what might be interpreted as ‘pathological’. This is probably because the staff had no theoretical tools with which to make other interpretations. Some signs were interpreted as common and in some cases as ‘normal’. These could be theoretically understood from either an activity or developmental perspective.

Conclusions. Staffs’ need an interpretative framework allowing them to understand the signs they sometimes observe in older people. Having an interpretative framework in which these signs are seen as normal aspects of ageing would enable staff to develop a different attitude towards older people and another approach to caring for them.