The Understanding of Pain by Older Adults Who Consider Themselves to Have Aged Successfully
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Collis, D. & Waterfield, J. (2015) The Understanding of Pain by Older Adults Who Consider Themselves to Have Aged Successfully. Musculoskeletal Care, 13(1), pp. 19-30.
Objectives: Despite an ageing population and an increased prevalence of chronic pain, the relationship between chronic pain and the concept of successful ageing is unclear. The aim of the present research was to explore older people's views on past and present experiences of pain, and its management, and how these experiences relate to their perceptions of successful ageing. Methods: Semi-structured interviews with six participants, aged 75 years or older, who considered themselves to have aged successfully, explored what this concept meant to them and their experiences of pain. Data analysis used methods drawn from grounded theory. The themes reported in this article are 'understanding of pain' and 'perceptions of ageing'. Results: None of the participants recalled painful experiences that were not attributable to physical trauma. They believed that pain is part of life and a natural consequence of the ageing process. While some accepted this with little resistance, others felt frustration at what they considered a dismissive attitude towards older people experiencing pain from healthcare practitioners. The concept of successful ageing was previously unfamiliar to participants, and their conceptualization of ageing derived from comparing themselves with their peers. Conclusions: The findings of the present study suggest that predictable experiences of pain as one ages may contribute to an acceptance of pain as a biomedical certainty, a belief reinforced both by health professionals and society. However, one may have chronic pain and yet consider oneself to have aged successfully, and it should therefore be recognized that there is a distinction between having pain and having a problem with pain.