Bone and Joint Institute

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BMC Geriatrics





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© 2015 McKenna et al. Background: As the demographic of older people continues to grow, health services that support independence among community-dwelling seniors have become increasingly important. Personal Emergency Response Systems (PERS) are medical alert systems, designed to serve as a safety net for seniors living alone. Health care professionals often recommend that seniors in danger of falls or other medical emergencies obtain a PERS. The purpose of the study was to investigate the experience of seniors living with and using a PERS in their daily lives, using a qualitative grounded theory approach. Methods: Five focus groups and 10 semi-structured interviews, with a total of 30 participants, were completed using a grounded theory approach. All participants were PERS subscribers over the age of 80, living alone in a naturally occurring retirement community (NORC) with high health service utilization in a major urban centre in Ontario. Constant comparative analysis was used to develop themes and ultimately a model of why and how seniors obtain and use the PERS. Results: Two core themes, unpredictability and decision-making around PERS activation, emerged as major features of the theoretical model. Being able to get help and the psychological value of PERS informed the context of living with a PERS. Conclusions: A number of theoretical conclusions related to unpredictability and the decision-making process around activating PERS were generated.


© 2015 McKenna et al. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly credited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

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