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Mutual care among older people

Authors Elin Siira
Axel Wolf
Helle Wijk
Bertil Rolandsson
Published in International Association of Gerontology and Geriatrics European Region Congress, May 23-25, 2019, Gothenburg, Sweden
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Sociology and Work Science
Institute of Health and Care Sciences
Language en
Keywords Informal Care and Caregiving Social Networks and Loneliness Health Promotion and Disease Prevention
Subject categories Health Sciences


In many developed countries, there is a great interest in how older people in need of care should be ‘taken care of.’ In Scandinavia, informal care has gained attention due to its potential to decrease costs and ease growing demands on health and social services. Looking at informal care and older people from such a perspective risks neglecting the complexity of informal care, and the multiple caring roles of older people. For example the often-unseen aspects of informal care that are simply ‘there’, but play a major role in the life of older people, their feeling of belonging, possibility to maintain well-being, and ability to carry out daily tasks. In this study, we explored everyday practices of informal care from the perspective of the older person, focusing on mutuality in care between older people. We carried out individual interviews ranging from 30-120 minutes (mean= 59 minutes) with 30 participants (17 women and 13 men) aged 67-93 years in one larger city and two smaller towns/rural municipalities in Sweden. Our results show that informal care practices between older people are multifaceted and varied. There is seldom a clear separation between caring for another and receiving care. Care practices range from ‘simply being’ there to pulling another person’s wheelchair, and may be perceived as a heavy burden or a pure pleasure. To draw on informal care and support to promote health among older people we must first accommodate both its complexity and its essentiality.

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