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The adjustment experiences of the aged when entering a retirement home in South Africa.

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In our modern society, many elderly people inevitably reach a stage where they have to make the decision to move into a retirement home; which can be a majorly stressful event. Although several overseas studies have explored the adjustment process of the elderly from their previous living situations (either independent or inter-generational living) to a retirement home, literature related to this process for the elderly in South Africa is limited. Therefore, the present study aimed to explore the adjustment experiences of the elderly (persons aged 65 and above) into a retirement home in South Africa. The study adopted a qualitative descriptive approach; with a group of ten elderly people (four men and six women) participating in an hour long, semi-structured interview with the researcher at BBGE (name protected for confidentiality) retirement home, Durban, South Africa, to make sense of their adjustment experiences. Research questions aimed to understand; how the elderly made sense of their experiences moving into the home, how they described challenges faced in the process, as well as how the adjustment experience impacted their sense of self-definition and interpersonal relatedness. Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) was used to analyse the data gathered in interviews. The findings were filtered into eight super-ordinate themes namely; moving into the home, dealing with different types of loss, dealing with traumatic ruptures in attachment, changes in understandings of self-identity, relationships within the home, institutional living, mindsets and adjustments, and the South African context. It was found that the adjustment process did not necessarily have a significant impact on the elderly’s self-definition or relatedness from a personality perspective, however, lifelong developments of the elderly’s personality styles had an effect on the adjustment process; by either enabling them to adjust with relative ease, or causing distress and ultimately a failure to adjust into the home adequately.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.