Unfolding biographies-a participatory narrative study on how older adults with multiple sclerosis make sense of and manage their everyday lives

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BACKGROUND: Today, public health research on later life, including the literature on aging with multiple sclerosis, is often centered on aging as a biological phenomenon. By applying a participatory narrative approach, this study conveys how studying biographical aging provides important insights into the elements of aging that people find relevant and meaningful. Based on narratives told by older adults living with multiple sclerosis, we explore how sensemaking unfolds and shapes the management of later life with a chronic and progressive disease.

METHODS: Twenty-four older adults (aged 65 years or older) living with multiple sclerosis in Denmark were engaged in taking photographs of their everyday lives and unfold the stories framed in their photographs in subsequent narrative interviews. Interview data were analyzed using a thematic narrative analysis. Aligned with the narrative approach, the findings of the analysis are presented using five cases chosen because they provide insight into the general patterns and themes identified across the narratives of the 24 participants.

RESULTS: Based on their photographs, the participants narrated stories centered around what they perceived as meaningful activities and social identity when aging with a progressive disease. Three themes emerged from the analysis in relation to how participants made sense of and managed aging with multiple sclerosis: 1) a life woven by non-detachable life experiences, 2) envisioning the future and 3) challenging life circumstances.

CONCLUSION: The findings of the study highlight that aging with multiple sclerosis is not only a biological phenomenon but also something nested in people's biographies. How people make sense of and manage their everyday lives is shaped by strategies from all parts of their lives-past, present and future. This understanding of later life with multiple sclerosis may enhance the care offered to older adults living with multiple sclerosis if greater emphasis is placed on the exploration of their narratives and the things they find meaningful.

TidsskriftBMC Geriatrics
Udgave nummer1
Antal sider12
StatusUdgivet - 2023

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© 2023. The Author(s).

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