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A qualitative analysis of how older adults experience that their need for autonomy has changed throughout their life and during COVID-19 pandemic

Hachmeister, Jannike (2020) A qualitative analysis of how older adults experience that their need for autonomy has changed throughout their life and during COVID-19 pandemic.

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Abstract:According to the self-determination theory (SDT), the satisfaction of the basic psychological need for autonomy, together with competence and relatedness is essential in order to experience well-being. However, throughout life people’s autonomy satisfaction can alter due to changed life situations such as the retirement or a crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic challenged peoples’ autonomy as governments imposed rules of conduct in order to slow down the spread of the virus. To explore how older adults living at home experience that their need for and satisfaction of autonomy has changed throughout their life and in the COVID-19 pandemic, five semi-structured interviews were conducted. Participants were male, living at home and ages ranged from 63 - 84 years. Questions were focused on participants personal experiences and understanding of autonomy in their current life, in their past and in times of the COVID-19 pandemic. Questions about expectations and hopes for the future were also added. A content analysis which included an inductive approach was used for data analysis. Results were structured around five main codes: autonomy satisfaction, autonomous situations throughout life, guidelines, influence of other people and requirements. Results showed that older adults’ autonomy and autonomy satisfaction changed throughout life. Participants described experiencing both greater autonomy and greater autonomy satisfaction in their current life compared to other times in their lives. Reasons for that are experiencing fewer obligations from outside and having more available time to engage in self-chosen activities compared to other times in their life due to retirement. In the COVID-19 pandemic participants felt limited in their autonomy due to governmental restrictions. Still, this did not result in a lowered autonomy satisfaction. For the future, participants reported hoping that their autonomy remains the same, as they experienced a great autonomy satisfaction in times of retirement. However, they mentioned health to be a prerequisite. Supporting older adults’ health by motivating them to engage in physical activities may therefore be a central topic of future interventions. Future research should focus on longitudinal designs following participants over a longer period of time in order to understand autonomy changes in transition phases. Findings are in line with previous research which showed that both autonomy as well as autonomy satisfaction increase with age. Keywords: Self-determination theory (SDT), Basic psychological need, Autonomy, COVID-19, Older adults, Retirement, Living at home, Interview study
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:77 psychology
Programme:Psychology MSc (66604)
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