SEEing social and meaning needs, talents and dreams of older adults receiving (informal) care: European Research report 1

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The rapidly ageing populations worldwide, particularly in Western countries, necessitate politicians, policymakers, and scientists to reflect on the implications of these unprecedented demographic developments. Gerontology, the multidisciplinary study of ageing and later life, aims to understand and improve the lives of older people. Scholarly efforts cover a wide range of research areas: from biomedical research aiming to increase longevity and health and find treatments for age-related diseases, policy research analysing the consequences of an ageing population for society and exploring the growing costs of healthcare and retirement, to healthcare research focusing on the improvement and quality of care for older people.

Ageing, however, also is an existential part of human life, involving physical, mental, social, cultural, and spiritual change (Cole, Ray & Kastenbaum, 2010). Therefore, it is important to develop a broader view of what it means to grow older to accommodate the needs of older people receiving care. Attention to the potential of older people and to maintaining and restoring social connectedness and meaningfulness is a fundamental goal of caregiving, with significant expected gains in the overall health and wellbeing of older people (Penick & Fallshore, 2005).

This report aims to contribute to a comprehensive view of ageing that acknowledges the potentials of older people, encompasses social and meaning dimensions of the ageing experience, and envisions old age as a life stage in which autonomy and wellbeing are accessible for individuals with and without care needs. It is based on an extensive literature review, complemented by qualitative interviews with a selection of older adults who participated in care projects chosen by the European SeeMe partners.

In this report, we start with the dominant perspective on (successful) ageing and identify the most critical shortcomings of this perspective (Chapter 2). Then, we describe four aspects of a more comprehensive view that addresses these criticisms. We look, successively, in more detail at the potentials of older people (Chapter 3), their social needs, (Chapter 4), and their meaning needs (Chapter 5). Next, we present the empirical outcomes of the social and meaning needs expressed by the older adults in the SeeMe project (Chapter 6). We end this report with conclusions on the relationship between social needs and meaning needs and their implications for providing care to older adults (Chapter 7).

Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationUtrecht
PublisherEuropean Union
Number of pages47
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022


  • older adults
  • social needs
  • meaning in life
  • caregiving
  • education

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