Poster Presentation

Monday, November 5, 2007
10:30 AM - 11:45 AM

Monday, November 5, 2007
1:45 PM - 3:00 PM
This presentation is part of : Rising Stars Posters
An elephant trying to dance: Sensations of the aging female body
Rebecca A. Lorenz, MHS, RN, School of Nursing, Saint Louis University, Saint Louis, MO, USA
Learning Objective #1: understand the lived experience of pre-clinical disability among older women.
Learning Objective #2: recognize the importance of bodily sensations related to an aging female body.

Our understanding of the transition from health to disability in older adults is incomplete. What has been overlooked in disablement research is the bodily experience of aging. Bodily sensations alert older adults to the onset of functional decline, but these vague, ambiguous sensations are often attributed to normal aging. The purpose of this study was to discover bodily sensations that indicate the onset of functional decline in older women. By understanding how older women perceive changes in their body and functional capacities, we can develop improved methods of assessment and interventions to reduce the burden of functional disability.

The study was designed using a hermeneutic approach to explore embodiment and taken-for-granted bodily sensations. Identification of paradigm cases and themes were used to analyze narrative data.

Twelve community-dwelling women (60-80 y/o), who reported no difficulty with daily activities, participated in repeated interviews and observations conducted over 6 months.

Older women experienced a variety of bodily sensations and these sensations were understood based on women’s concerns and previous bodily experiences. Women reported sensations that made the body feel conspicuous, (in one woman’s words “feeling like an elephant trying to dance”). In contrast, long-standing sensations had receded into the background and were therefore difficult for women to notice. These patterns became visible overtime through multiple participant observations. These findings provide a basis to detect subtle functional changes associated with the onset of functional decline. Funded by NINR 5F31NR008985.