It can be homely, but it can't be home: The meaning of home for older people in residential aged care

Research output: ThesisMasters Thesis


Best practice for care of older people in residential aged care is a critical current issue in Australia. If residential care is an older person’s final ‘home’, what does ‘home’ actually mean, from their standpoint at the end of their lives, from a spiritual perspective? Exploring the meaning of ‘home’ is vital to wholistically meet needs and optimise well-being for older people in residential care, particularly through the provision of effective pastoral care, as ‘home’ is identified as a spiritual concept which is deeply personal and important for older people. This paper reports on a qualitative, phenomenologically-based study into the lived experiences and meanings of home for ten older people in residential care, aged between 72 and 98. Informed by a model of spiritual processes and tasks of ageing (MacKinlay, 2017), in-depth interviews explored meaning and what makes a person feel ‘at home’, recognising that our personal stories express what is meaningful for us. Through participants’ narratives, two key themes were found: meaningful relationships and meaningful connection to place. Subthemes identified factors that influence a meaningful sense of home for older people, including essential relationship needs; relationships with family and staff; finding friendship; childhood home; connection with physical places; spiritual home, belief in an eternal home; and loss of relationship and connection. The paper concludes with recommendations to inform the provision of pastoral care, taking into account increasing secularisation of society in Australia and the Aged Care Quality Standards (Meaningful Ageing Australia, 2016).
Original languageEnglish
QualificationMaster of Ageing and Pastoral Studies
Awarding Institution
  • Charles Sturt University
Award date11 Sep 2020
Place of PublicationAustralia
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2020


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