Expectations Regarding Aging Among Older Adults and Physicians Who Care for Older Adults

Published in: Medical Care, v. 39, no. 9, Sep. 2001, p. 1025-1036

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2001

by Catherine A. Sarkisian, Ron D. Hays, Sandra H. Berry, Carol Mangione

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BACKGROUND: Understanding older adults' expectations regarding aging is important for both clinicians and policy-makers. OBJECTIVES. 1) To identify the content for a survey to measure expectations regarding aging; 2) to qualitatively compare older adults' and physicians' expectations regarding aging. SETTING: Three senior centers and one university-based internal medicine faculty practice. PARTICIPANTS: Forty-nine adults (mean age 78 years); 11 primary care clinicians (mean age 37 years). MEASUREMENTS: A facilitator conducted five focus groups of older adults and two of physicians using a standardized script designed to elicit expectations regarding aging. Qualitative analysis by two independent reviewers identified domains of expectations, with a 3rd reviewer used to resolve discrepancies. A corresponding coding scheme was applied to each line of the transcripts. Content and frequency of expectations regarding aging and beliefs regarding care seeking were examined and compared. RESULTS: Content analysis identified 26 domains of expectations regarding aging. Each of the seven most frequently mentioned domains of expectations was mentioned by at least 50% of participants. Of 760 unique statements coded, the most frequently described domains in both the older adult and physician groups were physical function, cognitive function, social function, pain, and sexual function. Older adults differed from physicians by describing five mental-health related domains: anxiety, emotional-well-being, happiness, sleep, and length of life/death. CONCLUSIONS: Using focus groups of older adults and physicians, we identified consistent content for a closed-ended patient-centered survey to measure expectations regarding aging. Further study should determine whether physicians address mental health aspects of aging valued by older persons.

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