Grounded theory was used to acquire an understanding of older women's experience of urinary incontinence (UI). Women explained that accidents or other problems related to the UI were threats to their self-esteem. These threats provided strong incentives to develop an effective continence care system which would help to protect their self-esteem. If they were successful in developing an effective system, it was possible that they could accept the UI and lead "normal" lives. Examination of the data using the constant comparative method revealed the self-care system that the women in this study produced to manage the UI, but not how they developed or sustained it. Further investigation into how women with UI develop and sustain continence care routines is needed, so that nurses can provide better assessments and nursing care.