Good Human Life in Assisted Living for Older People

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Arvo building, auditorium F114, address: Lääkärinkatu 1

Jari Pirhonen

Doctoral defence of M.Sc. Jari Pirhonen

Good Human Life in Assisted Living for Older People : What the residents are able to do and be

The field of science of the dissertation is Gerontology.

The opponent is professor Antti Karisto (University of Helsinki). Docent Ilkka Pietilä acts as the custos.

The language of the dissertation defence is Finnish

Why does Martti vanish?

Why does Martti sometimes seem to vanish when he moves into an assisted living facility? Where and why does he vanish? Jari Pirhonen found these questions when studying constituents of good life in assisted living for older people.

At the same time when older people move into assisted living facilities, their self-image is often challenged by various other things such as age-based changes regarding their functional abilities. Adding the routines and roles inside the facility, Martti, a former engineer who used to love motorcycling and hiking, is in danger of becoming merely an inmate or even a patient in an institution.

According to this research, residents’ personalities do not vanish intentionally, but because of inconsideration. Although person-centeredness and individuality are acknowledged as cornerstones of good care, they are misunderstood as concepts in assisted living surroundings. When a person’s functional abilities and means of self-expression are diminishing, responsibility for supporting her personhood transfers to other people around her. Regarding the most vulnerable people, emphasizing person-centeredness and individuality may even result in abandonment-like situations. Therefore we need a consensus on constituents of good human life as well as a view on how the most vulnerable may reach it.

One plausible starting-point to deliberate good human life is the Aristotelian perception that one should be able to fulfil oneself. Life is good when a person may strive for her goals employing her own competences and capabilities. According to this study, residents’ good life may be supported by paying attention to their autonomy and agency as well as their recognition as persons and affiliation in assisted living surroundings. We need to understand the relational nature of residents’ autonomy. We also need to see how residents’ agency gets more and more subtle and contains features of being in addition to doing. Recognizing personhood of the most vulnerable becomes a task for the community, and residents’ social relationships need to be validated both inside the facility and outside it.

Based on an empirical study, the doctoral thesis outlines a recognition-oriented care philosophy which keeps Martti visible as a person while residing in assisted living surroundings.

The dissertation is published in the publication series of Acta Universitatis Tamperensis; 2272, Tampere University Press, Tampere 2017. The dissertation is also published in the e-series Acta Electronica Universitatis Tamperensis; 1773, Tampere University Press 2017.


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