Nursing Ethics

The Meaning of Dignity for Older Adults: A Meta-Synthesis

Dignified care is a central issue in the nursing care of older adults. Nurses are expected to treat older adultswith dignity, and older adults wish to be treated in a dignified manner. Researchers have recommendedinvestigating the concept of dignity based on specific contexts and population groups. This meta-synthesisstudy aims to explore the understandings of dignity from the perspective of older adults in the Nordiccountries. Synthesising findings from qualitative studies on older adults’ experiences of dignity has providedimportant insight into what can be essential for dignified care in a Nordic context. The importance ofvisibility and recognition for the experience of dignity is an overarching theme in all the studies. Theparticipants’ descriptions mostly implicated an existence dominated by a lack of recognition. The olderadults do not feel valued as people or for their contribution to society and strive to tone down theirillnesses in an attempt to become more visible and acknowledged as people. Toning down their illnesses andmasking their needs can protect their independence. At the same time, becoming less visible can leave themwithout a voice. The metaphorical phrase protected and exposed by a cloak of invisibility is used to express theauthors’ overall interpretation of the findings. Lack of recognition and being socially invisible is a genuinethreat to older adults’ dignity.


Anne Clancy, Nina Simonsen, Johanne Lind, Anne Liveng, Aud Johannessen