Homely, but not home: The spiritual meaning of 'home' for residents living in aged care

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Best practice for quality aged care is a critical issue in Australia, with care providers promoting facilities as a resident’s new home. Yet what does ‘home’ actually mean? Exploring personal meanings of ‘home’ is vital to wholistically meet needs and optimise well-being for older people living in residential care.
Informed by MacKinlay’s (2017) model of ageing and spirituality, a qualitative, phenomenologically-based study investigated the meaning of ‘home’ for ten older people, aged between 72 and 98, living in residential care. In-depth interviews were conducted to explore participants’ lived experiences, recognising that personal stories express what is meaningful in our lives.
Findings showed that residential care could be homely, but never home. Home for these participants meant connection, and was a spiritual concept which was deeply personal and important. Two main themes of meaningful relationships and meaningful connection to place identified crucial factors for being ‘at home’, including relationship needs, family, finding friendship, childhood home, connection with physical spaces, spiritual home, and, for some, belief in an eternal home. Loss of connection and relationships wove through all participants’ narratives.
Recommendations inform residential aged care providers of the value of meaningful connection in order to provide homely residences, especially through the intentional provision of spiritual and pastoral care, and the importance of good food, meaningful activities, and appropriate training for all staff.
Reference: MacKinlay, E. (2017). The Spiritual Dimension of Ageing (2nd ed.). Jessica Kingsley Publishers
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 17 Nov 2021
EventAustralian Association of Gerontology Conference - Virtual, Gold Coast, Australia
Duration: 09 Nov 202112 Nov 2021
Conference number: 54


ConferenceAustralian Association of Gerontology Conference
Abbreviated titleInnovation in Ageing: For the Future
CityGold Coast
Internet address


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