The lived experience of frailty: what does it mean to be frail?

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With population ageing, frailty is an increasingly critical global health matter. Many studies have focused on physical aspects of frailty, but more recently on the psychosocial aspects of frailty. Within western societies frailty is often linked with fear and suffering. This paper outlines a previously understudied perspective; the spiritual dimension in frailty, bringing a holistic view to this complex condition. The paper presents the main findings of a mixed methods study that focused on the lived experience of older people, receiving high-level care living in residential care or at home. Participants (n = 25) were identified as being frail by staff of the residential aged care organisation, and confirmed by psychometric testing. The quantitative component of the study comprised a survey of psychometric measures of mental health, wellbeing and an index of activities of daily living. The qualitative component followed a phenomenological approach, using the Spiritual Tasks and Process of Ageing model (STPA) as a study framework. Analysis focused on the lived experience of participants and where they found meaning in their perceived vulnerability and through self-transcendence, with reports of things they found hardest in life, and inner strength forming the most important themes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)269-292
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Religion, Spirituality and Aging
Issue number3
Early online dateJun 2023
Publication statusPublished - 2024


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