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. 2009 Aug;49(4):525-35.
doi: 10.1093/geront/gnp045. Epub 2009 Jun 19.

Wisdom of Generations: A Pilot Study of the Values Transmitted in Ethical Wills of Nursing Home Residents and Student Volunteers

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Wisdom of Generations: A Pilot Study of the Values Transmitted in Ethical Wills of Nursing Home Residents and Student Volunteers

Jiska Cohen-Mansfield et al. Gerontologist. .

Abstract

Purpose: This is a pilot study that provides a description of the values older persons report in ethical wills and their reasoning for the values they chose, and compares the values in ethical wills of seniors and students. Nursing home residents rarely get the opportunity or venue to discuss these topics and the ethical will enables them to have conversations about issues they feel are important.

Design and methods: The 22 Questions for Ethical Wills(c) assessment was administered to 15 residents of a large nursing home in suburban Maryland and to 11 student volunteers. Raters identified recurring themes and independently analyzed the text from the ethical wills based on the themes. Questions that prompted similar responses were combined in the analyses.

Results: The most prevalent theme among both nursing home residents and students was "interpersonal relations." Differences between groups of respondents were especially evident for the theme of "education," which was given by over a half of the older persons and none of the students. Greater variability was found in the responses of the older participants, as was a greater likelihood of providing detailed explanations for their relayed values.

Implications: The 22 Questions for Ethical Wills(c) is a useful methodology to elicit meaningful discussions of values and life lessons in persons both young and old. This process offers an intriguing comparison between the similarities and differences of life views of persons at opposite ends of the age spectrum.

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