Death and dying from old people's point of view. A literature review

Aging Clin Exp Res. 2004 Apr;16(2):87-103. doi: 10.1007/BF03324537.


Providing high-quality end-of-life care to older people is a requirement especially for countries with a high proportion of old and very old people. This calls for an understanding of older people's view of death and dying, and one way forward is to investigate the current knowledge base. This study aimed at reviewing the literature of empirical studies about older people's view of death and dying, whether in a terminal phase of life or not. A total of 33 publications were included, identified in a stepwise literature search done in Medline, CINAHL and PsychInfo, using the terms "death", "attitude to death", "death" and "dying" in combination with "aged". Very few studies focused solely on the oldest old. The designs were mainly cross-sectional, quantitative or qualitative, using personal interviews. Some common themes of importance for further research were revealed, such as older people's readiness to talk about death and dying, conceptions of death, after-death and dying, and were seemingly related to anxiety about death, the impact on and of those close by, having both negative and positive connotations, especially related to balancing closeness, being a burden and dependency, death anxiety and its possible antecedents, the fine line between natural sadness and suffering from depression, and worry about the end-of-life phase. The lack of studies dealing with older people's view of death and dying, and the heterogeneity with regard to research questions and samples implies that findings may serve mainly as inspiration for further research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Attitude to Death*
  • Codependency, Psychological
  • Death*
  • Depression / psychology
  • Family / psychology
  • Fear / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Life Support Care / psychology
  • Male
  • Mental Health
  • Middle Aged
  • Personal Autonomy
  • Quality of Life / psychology
  • Religion
  • Terminally Ill / psychology