Elders in Assisted Living: Excavating Hospitality from Within
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This narrative inquiry (Chase, 2011; Clandinin, 2013; Clandinin & Connelly, 2000; Pinnegar & Daynes, 2007; Polkinghorne, 2010; Rogers, 2007; Tierney & Lincoln, 1997) qualitative study explores four elders’ experiences of hospitality, power, and agency in a Catholic assisted living facility in south central Texas. There are four research objectives in this study: 1) to evoke voices of elders, 2) to perform feminist research, 3) to craft my own creative research framework, and 4) to extend Catholic social teaching beyond traditional spaces. New insights and understandings of how elders foster and/or encounter community amongst diverse elders is important to formal and informal caregivers, as well as elders themselves, as people are aging and living longer than ever before. Evoking the voice of elders' stories, with the use of narrative inquiry, and creating new and positive meanings of assisted living through elders' own experiences can help to counteract the dread that so many elders and their care givers feel when discussing assisted living options.
Primary participants ranged between 66 and 92 years of age at the time of the interviews, and two to three additional secondary participants (mostly staff, other assisted living residents, and family members) named in each elder’s stories were also interviewed to gain additional data. Semi-structured individual interviews (Glesne, 2011) were conducted with primary and secondary participants within the assisted living facility; and all interviews were tape recorded and later transcribed, along with writing field notes to record my observations and thoughts during each site visit (Glesne, 2011; Marshall & Rossman, 2011; Merriam, 2009).
A blended theoretical framework (Leshem & Trafford, 2007; Merriam, 2009) situated in feminism (Chittister, 1998; Lather, 2001; Luke, 1996; Noddings, 2007) was created and applied to the stories, integrating several theoretical perspectives including a life cycle theory by Erikson (Erikson, 1963, Erikson, 1997), recent interpretation of Catholic social teaching (DeBerri, Hug, Henriot, & Schultheis, 2003; O’Brien & Shannon, 2010) in exploration of hospitality (Aristarkhova, 2012; Levinas, 1979; Pohl, 1999; Vogt, 2007; Wrobleski, 2012), as well as the concept of cosmopolitanism (Appiah, 2006; Derrida, 2001; Hansen, 2010; Miller, 2011; Quinn, 2010) through education and philosophy.
While there were 25 themes identified within the stories (Chase, 2011; Clandinin & Connelly, 2000; Glesne, 2011), the study concluded with these guiding insights that emerged from the data: 1) maintaining a sense of purpose is important for elders, 2) encountering hospitality impacts the quality of life for elders, 3) staff are both host and guest, and 4) elders are transformative educators. Additionally, the study suggests several organizational strategies addressing systems-level change: 1) ways in which to engage elders as powerful and life-filled, 2) ways in which to ensure elder stories are told to others, and 3) how to translate useful elements of a Catholic mission to non-Catholic organizations.