Date of Award


Degree Name

PhD Nursing

Dissertation Committee

Patricia A. Roth, EdD, Chair; Jane M. Georges, PhD; Mary Woods Scherr, PhD


elderly, Gerontology, nursing, retirement community, singleness, Social psychology, women


This study explored role changes, resilience, social, and health challenges encountered by older women who transitioned to a retirement community that provided social, health, and safety support structures. The aim of this study was to analyze and describe the transition from the viewpoint of the participants. Although previous research has shown transitions lead to psychosocial, emotional, physical, and health changes, the importance of this study stems from the lack of research on older women moving to supportive communities and their unique challenges. A convenience sample of 39 women, aged 70-94, who had been living alone before moving to a church supported or private retirement community were recruited. In-depth, semi-structured interviews were conducted and analyzed using Grounded Theory methodology. Grounded Theory was the selected method of research as it focuses on social processes grounded in individual experiences, and searches for common experiences, common meanings, and common behaviors which lead to a broad knowledge base for theory development. Audio-recorded, transcribed data was analyzed and coded; major dimensions were identified; themes and linkages examined; and a theoretical model was developed. Dimensional analysis and a feminist perspective of power, social reality and reflexivity completed the development of a theoretical model. Data analysis revealed themes of "time for change", "gathering resources", "letting go", and "a sense of home" from the perspective of "maintaining control" throughout the transition process. The women made decisions supporting control and independence; and they took time to explore and discuss changes. The transition involved both letting go and balancing the familiar with the new; and required resilience and adaptability. The transition was complete when the women felt at "home" in their new surroundings. This study provides an understanding of the experiences of older women during a period of transition and leads to a theoretical model of transition. Psychosocial, health, and economic challenges faced by the older women in this study informs the knowledge base of healthcare providers. This study indicated the need for further gender sensitive and age sensitive research. Additionally, this study suggests that future health policy must address the needs of this expanding senior population.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access



Included in

Nursing Commons