“Just something human”: Older Swiss nursing home residents discuss their will to live

M. A. Bornet1, L. Jones1, E. Rubli Truchard1, M. Bernard1, G. D. Borasio1, R. J. Jox1 (1Lausanne)


The will to live (WTL) is an important indicator of subjective well-being, which may enable a deeper understanding of older nursing home residents’ well-being.


To investigate older nursing home residents’ definitions and determinants of the WTL.


Twenty residents (70% women, mean age 85.8 ± 10.3 years) capable of providing consent, living in four Swiss nursing homes, participated in semi-structured interviews exploring their WTL. Interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim and thematic analysis was conducted to identify recurrent themes (40% double coded).


Nursing home residents commonly responded that defining their WTL was difficult, with many reflecting on the ‘innate’ nature of the concept. When asked about the factors that influence their WTL, residents discussed themes related to five primary themes: 1) relationships, notably with family, friends, other residents and health professionals; 2) their living context, the nursing home being an essential place to live, which provides necessary care, constant presence of professionals and security but also implies inconveniences, such as a loss of independence; 3) individual factors, such as adaptability and maintaining a positive outlook; 4) engagement in routines, including both organized activities and individual daily routines, and 5) health status, primarily related to functional health and activities that they are still able to do or that their health status prevents them from continuing.


The importance of relationships, including the impact of the staff’s mood and energy levels, via their investment in their work and interactions, on resident’s WTL highlights the need to examine and improve the working conditions of staff, not only for their own benefit, but also for the well-being of the residents they care for. Residents’ emphasis on their adaptability to various situations should remind health professionals and society to critically reconsider preconceived ideas about the WTL of institutionalized older people.


These findings provide new insight into the meaning attached to the concept of the WTL for older institutionalized people, which is essential for the development of resource-oriented care in this context.