Ideas of well-being in old age are often anchored in the successful ageing paradigm, foregrounding independence, activeness and autonomy. However, for those oldest old living in nursing homes, these goals are largely out of reach. In this article, we use the meta-ethnographic method to explore and reinterpret existing findings on the ways in which well-being is experienced (or not) by the oldest old in institutional care settings. We frame our findings in existential well-being theory, which understands wellbeing as a sense of ‘dwelling-mobility’. Our analysis resulted in the following themes: (a) institutionalisation as both restrictive and liberating; (b) reciprocity and mattering: the importance of being seen; (c) the need for kinship and the problem of ruptured sociality; (d) rethinking agency: situated, delegated and supported; and (e) lowered expectations: receiving care is not a passive act. We conclude that while institutional care environments are not always conducive to well-being, this does not have to be so. By shifting our focus from successful ageing ideals onto relationally situated care practices, a possibility for existential well-being opens up, even in situations of decline and care dependency.
Artiklen er publiceret i Ageing & Society 2023 og forfattet af: Emma Jelstrup Balkin, Mette Grønkjær, Bente Martinsen, Ingjerd Gåre Kymre & Mette Geil Kollerup.