'I like to feel needed, you know?': a qualitative examination of sense of purpose in older care home residents

Aging Ment Health. 2023 Feb;27(2):236-242. doi: 10.1080/13607863.2021.2017849. Epub 2021 Dec 16.


Objectives: To explore older care home residents' experiences of maintaining a sense of purpose in life: a core component of psychological wellbeing.

Methods: Fifteen residents (9 female; 6 male), aged 60-95 years, from four care homes, were interviewed about their sense of purpose. Interview transcripts were analysed using inductive thematic analysis.

Results: Theme 1 ('Experiencing Loss') comprises two sub-themes that describe the impact of age-related losses on residents' sense of purpose (sub-theme 1) and the different responses that participants had to these losses (sub-theme 2). Theme 2 ('The Protective Effects of Social Connections') describes how social relationships could provide a sense of purpose, as well as the difficulties participants experienced in forming these relationships. Finally, theme 3 ('The Roles of Activities') describes the types of activities that could help residents to maintain a sense of purpose.

Conclusion: Care home residents experience losses and barriers that make it more difficult to maintain a sense of purpose. However, with appropriate support and opportunities, residents are able to engage in activities and relationships that provide a sense of purpose. To support residents' mental health and wellbeing, care homes should offer varied opportunities for residents to engage in purposeful activities.

Keywords: Psychosocial; meaningful activity; nursing home; quality of life; wellbeing.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Emotions*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Male
  • Mental Health
  • Nursing Homes*
  • Qualitative Research