Background: women live longer than men but consistently report poorer health status and health-related quality of life. Information is scarce on what components of care women desire to help them meet the challenges of their later years.
Objectives: to identify older women"s priorities for maintaining physical, emotional and social well-being in later years and to measure the extent to which women perceive that these priorities are being met by the health care system.
Methods: a cross-sectional survey of community-dwelling women aged 55-93 years old (n = 609, mean age 70). Women attendees of outpatient medical clinics were invited to fill out a written questionnaire on health priorities and perceptions of care. Mismatches between the care that women desired and the care they perceived to be receiving were identified. Predictors of unmet priorities were evaluated.
Setting: the Greater Montreal Area in Quebec, Canada.
Results: in general, respondents were more concerned about preventing disability than with developing certain diseases later in life. Women prioritised feeling validated in the health care relationship and having their health care provider see them as a whole person. Deficiencies in addressing memory loss, preserving mobility and function and treating urinary incontinence were highlighted. Women aged 75 years and older were less likely to perceive that their priorities were unmet compared to women aged 55-74 years (OR 0.571; 95% confidence interval 0.404-0.808), when adjusting for other socio-demographic and health variables.
Conclusions: Opportunities exist to improve the preventive health care that women are receiving to promote healthy ageing. Women aged 55-74 should especially be targeted for interventions to prevent disability in later life.