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The shared decision making of older adults in healthcare

Emilia Pusey (St George’s University of London, London, UK)
Anthea Tinker (King’s College London Institute of Gerontology, London, UK)
Federica Lucivero (Ethox Centre, Nuffield Department of Population Health, University of Oxford, UK)

Working with Older People

ISSN: 1366-3666

Article publication date: 8 January 2019

Issue publication date: 23 May 2019




The research question is: what are older adults’ experiences of shared decision making (SDM) in a healthcare setting? This involved exploring older adults’ experiences and opinions of decision making in a healthcare setting, and understanding what SDM means to older adults. The paper aims to discuss this issue.


A qualitative study using face-to-face, semi-structured interviews with adults over 65 years was conducted. Thematic analysis was used.


Three broad themes were identified which ascribed roles to individuals involved in decision making. This includes the way in which older adults felt they should be involved actively: by asking questions and knowing their own body. The doctors’ role was described as assistive by facilitating discussion, giving options and advice. The role of the family was also explored; older adults felt the family could impact on their decisions in both a direct and indirect way. There was some confusion about what constituted a decision.

Research limitations/implications

This was a small qualitative study in a market town in England.

Practical implications

Clinicians should facilitate the involvement of older adults in SDM and consider how they can increase awareness of this. They should also involve the family in decision making.


There are limited studies which look at this issue in depth.



Federica Lucivero supervised this dissertation and Anthea Tinker was the author’s personal tutor.


Pusey, E., Tinker, A. and Lucivero, F. (2019), "The shared decision making of older adults in healthcare", Working with Older People, Vol. 23 No. 2, pp. 77-86.



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