Background: Older women often have different physical and psychological health priorities compared to men, and health systems must strive to extend and improve health care delivery to meet older women's specific health care needs. The goal of this study was to obtain information from older women on how to improve health care services to best support their efforts to age successfully and receive optimal quality health care in later life.
Methods: Focus groups were conducted among women aged 65 or older recruited from the community in the Montreal, Quebec, area. A total of 36 women participated. The focus group sessions were audiotaped, and the transcripts of each session were analyzed for issues and themes emerging from the text. Content analysis using the framework approach was used to explore and understand the experience of the focus group participants. The data from the text were then coded according to the relevant and emergent ideas and concepts.
Results: Participants felt that their physical health care needs were being met, but that a number of issues relating to psychological health were inadequately addressed by health care professionals. The importance of feeling validated as active participants in a health care relationship, recognition of fears and anxieties associated with aging, and the need for information-sharing and education were all viewed as important health care priorities for older women. Time and accessibility were identified as the most significant barriers towards receiving optimal health care in later life.
Interpretation: The current health care system does not meet the global health care needs of older women. Health care leaders must recognize that success in program development and delivery for older women will require designing clinical programs that address both the physiological and psychosocial requirements of women. Only when women feel that they are being cared for in a comprehensive manner, one that includes attention to physical, psychological and emotional health, are we likely to be delivering health care that optimally promotes successful aging.