Hearing the voices of people with high support needs

Katz, Jeanne; Holland, Caroline and Peace, Sheila (2013). Hearing the voices of people with high support needs. Journal of Aging Studies, 27(1) pp. 52–60.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaging.2012.11.003


The British charity, The Joseph Rowntree Foundation, commissioned a study to explore the needs and aspirations of older people who for whatever reason require a high degree of assistance. The ultimate aim was to develop a model to enable older people to identify and express their needs and aspirations which could be utilized in future research. This article describes how in developing that model, the voices of older people with high support needs were heard, and what they had to say. The study explored the personal aspirations of a small sample of hitherto un-researched people living in different parts of the UK. The twenty-three participants aged over 60, eleven of whom were aged over 85, varied in terms of ethnicity, health status, social care needs, financial status and lifestyle. Many were receiving input from statutory health and social care services and all were perceived to have high support needs. Accessible research methods were used to enable participants to specify those factors for well-being most central to their own lives and preferences. Results included commonalities of aspiration in relation to physical, social and psychological aspects of participants’ lives, but also unique descriptions of their individual concerns. In striving to maintain a sense of self worth, participants accepted that some choices were not realistic for them personally. Positive relationships with care-givers were an essential enabler for some. Often negotiation can produce simple and cost-effective ways of addressing individual aspirations and improving quality of life.

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