“All the bright colours, I’ve never seen anything like that before. It makes you happy, cheers you up.”: exploration of the physical environment and positive sense of self in frailty.

Authors: Cox, C., Ellis-Hill, C., Board, M. and Vassallo, M.

Conference: British Society of Gerontology 47th Annual Conference - Ageing in an Unequal World: Shaping Environments for the 21st Century.

Dates: 4-6 July 2018


In the UK half of all people over 85 are living with frailty, now a recognised long-term condition, and this number is rising. Understanding the complexities of frailty is an increasingly important focus for healthcare providers. Due to negative connotations associated with frailty people who are frail often do not feel able to engage with service providers to enhance their health. Little is known about how services can support positive experiences, meanings and identities of people living with frailty. The aim of this three phase ethnographic study is to understand how a positive sense of self and identity in older people with frailty is constructed and supported within a NHS Day Hospital which has received good service-user feedback. A preliminary finding from phase one of the study is the effect of the physical environment. Patients and relatives reported that spaces, colours and pictures within the Day Hospital made them feel “happy” and “cheerful” and that this made their experience “less like a hospital”, with the associated negative connotations. The data suggest that the colours, textures, pictures and spaces of the day hospital environment give a tangible backdrop to a positive and welcoming sense of place for older people with frailty. Physical environments may contribute to supporting a positive sense of self by providing a temporary space of familiarity and security to people who may be experiencing multiple changes and losses through their condition of frailty.

Source: Manual