The Effectiveness of Biographical Approaches in Long-Term Care: A Systematic Review

Gerontologist. 2020 May 15;60(4):e309-e328. doi: 10.1093/geront/gnz074.


Background and objectives: Older adults in long-term residential aged care experience loneliness and reduced quality of life (QoL). Biographical approaches use the recall of the past events to increase self-efficacy, promote acceptance, and improve QoL. The aim of the systematic review was to examine the effectiveness of biographical approaches in improving the QoL of older adults in long-term residential aged care.

Research design and methods: This systematic review was conducted in accordance with PRISMA guidelines, using databases Medline, CINAHL, and the Cochrane Library. A 2-phase search strategy was used to identify research literature relating to the use of biographical interventions. Narrative analysis was used to synthesize results.

Results: Twenty-one studies met inclusion criteria for this review, comprising both group and individual interventions. The findings were inconsistent. Subjective elements of QoL of older adults improved in a narrow majority of the studies. Of a total of 21 outcomes investigated in group interventions, 11 resulted in significant improvements in QoL. The 16 outcomes of the individual interventions resulted in 10 significant improvements. The most significant influence was observed in life satisfaction. Group reminiscence also had a particularly strong influence on self-esteem.

Discussion and implications: Although benefits were observed, it remains unclear why some interventions led to improvements in subjective elements of QoL and others did not. Exploration of the participant perspective through qualitative data collection and more detailed description of interventions in future studies could lead to a better understanding of the treatment components that are related to improved outcomes for older adults.

Keywords: Biographical approaches; Life review; Long-term care; Quality of life; Reminiscence.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Long-Term Care
  • Male
  • Mental Recall*
  • Narration*
  • Quality of Life*
  • Residential Facilities*