It is important to know about how frail older people experience their physical decline and how they adapt to their bodily changes so that the health system can design preventive interventions targeting this group early on in the disability process.The aim of this study was to explore how older people perceive their physical decline. The study is qualitative in design and based on interviews with older persons, who were in an acute care process. Fourteen people, five men and nine women, aged 74 – 92 years (mean 81 years) were included in the study. Content analysis was used. The main finding was that physical decline was marked as occurring in two dimensions. One dimension was the physical decline and its impact on the individuals physical body (labelled individual body). The other dimension was the impact on the body in its environmental context such as the home or the society (labelled contextual body). The strategies for adapting constituted the two sub-themes, which were labeled compensating/controlling and accepting/resignation. The strategies were executed both on an intellectual level and practical level. For healthcare workers striving to increase physical activity, knowledge about how closely related self-image and physical ability are is useful when helping the frail older people. Increasing coping strategies for handling the general life situation may be a useful way of increasing physical activity and making it feel meaningful, despite the persons frail health situation with limited physical and sometimes psychological resources.
Keywords: old age, physical decline, force control, variability, isometric force, Experience, Body, interview, strategy, compensation, adaptation, Content analysis, coping, frail
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