When Self-Presentation Trumps Access: Why Older Adults with Low Vision Go without Low Vision Services
Journal of Applied Gerontology
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Reasons were sought for low-vision service nonuse in a group of Canadian seniors with self-reported low vision. Audio-recorded semistructured interviews were completed with 34 seniors with low vision: age range (70 to 94 years; mean: 82 years); 16 urban dwellers (12 women); 18 rural dwellers (14 women). Qualitative content analysis and template analytic techniques were applied to transcriptions. Informant nonuse of low-vision services involved: insufficient knowledge, managing for now, and practitioner behavior (inadequate rehabilitation education and management). Underlying seniors’ attitudes that shaped their self-presentation and service nonuse included a strong need for independence, a contextualization of vision loss relative to other losses, and an acceptance of vision loss in life. Service delivery strategies should consider not only knowledge access and healthcare practitioner behavior but also senior self-presentation strategies (e.g., viewing aids as counterproductive to independence). Subtle rural-urban attitudinal differences may further delay access for rural seniors; further research is advised.