Exploring gaps in positive solitude perceptions: older adults vs. gerontology professionals
The aim of this study was to explore old persons' experiences of positive solitude (PS) and the gaps between their experience and professional caregivers' perceptions of older adults' experiences of PS. Moreover, we attempt to understand the basic mechanism that may explain these gaps. A qualitative method was used. Fourty-one older adults (aged 65-103 years) and 2 groups of professionals: 16 occupational therapists with a specialization in gerontology and 41 gerontology graduate students from
... uate students from other occupations. Four open-ended questions about PS were asked. The older adults described their views on PS and experiences during solitude. The two caregiver groups, who are familiar with older adults, answered the questions twice, referring once to themselves and once to older adults in general. A. Gaps exist between old peoples' and caregivers' perceptions and experience of PS. B. The caregivers believe that older adults cannot easily enjoy PS. C. Caregivers believe that there are certain preconditions for older adults' experience of PS. D. Differences in attitude toward older adults between the caregiver groups were found. Although old people occasionally prefer PS, culture and age bias may prevent caregivers from accepting older adults' need for PS. Practical implications include the need to raise awareness of age bias among caregiving staff, in particular regarding their acceptance of older adults' PS experiences. This may improve the staff's willingness to enable older adults to experience PS without interruption.