The role of dementia and Alzheimer's disease in older adults' representations of aging and anxieties regarding one's own future

J Aging Stud. 2023 Jun:65:101127. doi: 10.1016/j.jaging.2023.101127. Epub 2023 Mar 8.

Abstract

Dementia and Alzheimer's disease crucially influence the images of advanced age and represent a significant framework for the construction of anxieties regarding aging. By drawing on twenty-five in-depth interviews with older adults (age 65+ years) living in the Czech Republic, in this study, the influences of dementia and Alzheimer's disease on older adults' narratives of expectations and worries pertaining to their aging and future are analyzed. Three distinct ways in which participants narrate personal concerns related to Alzheimer's disease and integrate the risk of developing such a condition into their representations of fears associated with old age were identified: 1) Dementia as a perceived immediate risk, 2) dementia as the metonym of the fourth age, and 3) dementia as a distant tragedy but not a personal worry. These approaches differ in terms of the perception of the risk of developing dementia, anxiety-related responses related to future expectations, and the role of dementia in their representation of 'bad' old age. The different positions of dementia (specific health condition vs. signifier of dependency in old age) affected the participants' strategies related to medical screening and information seeking.

Keywords: Alzheimer's disease; Dementia worry; Fourth age; Qualitative research; Social representations of dementia.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging
  • Alzheimer Disease*
  • Anxiety
  • Czech Republic
  • Humans