The lived experience of elderly people who feel life is completed and no longer worth living.
Els van Wijngaarden, Carlo Leget and Anne Goossensen ((University of Humanistic Studies, Utrecht, Netherlands))
In the Netherlands, there has been much political and public debate on the question whether elderly people, who are tired of life and who consider their life to be completed, should have legal options to ask for assisted dying.
So far there has been little research into the experiences of these elderly people. In order to develop deliberate policy and care that targets this group of elderly people, it is necessary to understand their lifeworld.
The aim of the research by dr. Els van Wijngaarden is to describe the phenomenon ‘life is completed and no longer worth living’ from a lifeworld perspective, as it is lived and experienced by elderly people.
Reflective lifeworld research design
Between April to December 2013, we conducted 25 in-depth interviews. A reflective lifeworld research design, drawing on the phenomenological tradition, was used during the data gathering and data analysis.
The essential meaning of the phenomenon is understood as ‘a tangle of inability and unwillingness to connect to one’s actual life’, characterized by a permanently lived tension: daily experiences seem incompatible with people’s expectations of life and their idea of whom they are.[pullquote]“Deep inside, you are very much alone. Totally, totally alone”[/pullquote]
While feeling more and more disconnected to life, a yearning desire to end life is strengthened. The experience is further explicated in its five constituents:
- a sense of aching loneliness;
- the pain of not mattering;
- the inability to express oneself;
- multidimensional tiredness; and
- a sense of aversion towards feared dependence.
This article provides evocative and empathic lifeworld descriptions contributing to a deeper understanding of these elderly people and raises questions about a close association between death wishes and depression in this sample.
E. van Wijngaarden et al. / Social Science & Medicine 138 (2015) 257e264.