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The constitution of single home in a condominium specific for elderly


Elen Ferraz TestonI; Sonia Silva MarconII

INurse of the Family Heath Strategy in the municipality of Jandaia do Sul. PhD in the State University of Maringá, Paraná, Brazil. E-mail: elen-1208@hotmail.com.
IINurse. PhD in Philosophy of Nursing. Professor in Nursing Graduation and Post-graduation from theState University of Maringá. Coordinator of the Study, Research, Assistance and Support to Family Core. Maringa, Paraná, Brazil. E-mail: soniasilva.marcon@gmail.com.

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.12957/reuerj.2014.6565


ABSTRACT: The objective was to study the perception of the elderly living alone in relation to the establishment of single person households. Exploratory, qualitative study conducted with 20 elderly residents of the Elderly Condominium in the municipality of Maringá, Paraná. Data were collected in February 2012, through semi-structured interviews conducted in the condominium and subjected to content analysis. Some of the elderly feel that the constitution is the single home is because a separation or death of their partner, others recognize it as a new start. Moreover, living there was only related to autonomy, which creates insecurity for the elderly in situations of illness. However, some of them said that they feel relieved when living in the condominium. Therefore, it is necessary the nursing work in this population in order to reduce risk factors, stimulating the adoption of self-care actions with a view of maintaining health.

Keywords: Elderly; nursing; home; health promotion.



This article constitutes a clipping of the dissertation entitled Condominium for the elderly: implications for health and nursing care in this new housing mode belonging to the Graduate Program in Nursing at the State University of Maringá (UEM).

The interest in doing this study was due to a visit carried out the recent housing mode, in the municipality of Maringá-Paraná, titled Elderly Condominium. From this, reflections and concerns related to the Constitution of the households in this condominium emerged.

It is known that the constitution of single home is influenced by autonomy and general condition of elderly health1. With this, the present study had as objective the perception of elderly who live alone with the constitution of a single person home.



The Condominiums for elderly emerge as a new modality for elderly low-income housing and constitute a strategy for ensuring the right to housing, especially those who live in precarious conditions. Differently to what occurs in shelters and nursing homes, the residents of this housing mode are independent, pay rent (symbolic) for their residences and have autonomy to come and go as they pleased, and decide on the organization of the condominium in a colletive way2.3. The houses can be occupied by elderly people living alone and for those who has also an elderly partner.

This is a recent housing mode in Brazil3, so there are scarcity of studies. Internationally, it began in late 1950 with the increase in elderly population4.5. In this recent trend of reducing the number of children, increasing the number of divorces, improves the health conditions of the elderly population and an increase in longevity, it is expected that over the years there is an increase in single person home, i.e. growing the number of elderly living alone6.

Given this, it is intended with this study to contribute to the construction of gerontological nursing, favoring the planning of strategies of care, from the perception of the elderly who live alone, with respect to influential factors in this condition.



Exploratory study of qualitative approach, conducted with elderly residents at the Elderly Condominium of the city of Maringá, Paraná, implemented in August 2010, and having 40 houses with 50 residents, 28 living alone.

The data were collected in the month of February 2012, through interviews conducted in their own home. The interviews, after the consent of the participants, were recorded in digital type recorder, with an average duration of 20 minutes, and guided by a semi-structured script consisting of two parts. The first one was constituted by section I (composed of 10 questions of demographic characterization) of BOAS Instrument, used in the matrix, research (Brazil old age schedule) translated and validated in Brazil7. The second part was made up of three guided questions, prepared by the authors, based on the objectives of the study: what represents for you living alone? Talk about it; in General, do you like to live alone? Talk about the advantages and disadvantages of living alone.

Twenty of twenty-eight elderly residing at the condominium participated in the study. No other criteria besides living alone was adopted for inclusion or exclusion in the study. The participants, therefore, were the first 20 elderly approached, since the information gathered so far, in addition to being repeating, were already sufficient to meet the objectives of the study.

For data analysis, the interviews were transcribed in full and after that, subjected to content analysis thematic mode. In the first phase the readings of lines were performed, raising relevant points to the purpose of the study. In the exploration phase of the material, the encoding of the data proceeded. In the treatment of the results, the categorization was held, which consists in the classification of elements according to their similarities and differentiation, with later regrouping as a function of commons characteristics8. Data analysis has resulted in two categories: where life took me; To live alone it is necessary health and friends.

The development of the study occurred in accordance with the established by Resolution number 196/96 of the National Health Council, and was approved by the Permanent Ethic Committee in Research Involving Human Beings, from the State University of Maringá (opinion Number 709\ 2011). All subjects signed an informed consent term, giving consent to their participation in two copies. For the differentiation of the subjects and the preservation of their identity, the following codes were used: the letter F identifying the female and the letter M of the males, followed by the age of the respondent.



Of the 20 elderly under study, 15 are women, with ages varying between 63 and 86 years old, with three of the average number of children. With regard to education, 16 of the elderly have 4 years of study and four of them have no education. With respect to income, all elderly receive a minimum wage.

The thematic analysis of the data has allowed the identification of two categories described below:

Where life took me

A review study about the decision of living alone shows some variables that contribute to the formation of the single home, including gender, age, education, urban or rural residence, income, health condition, beyond the kind of family relationship established over the years6.9.

Among the elderly in the study, the constitution of single home was after 60 years old, which may indicate an imposition contingency by partner´s death or separation, as evidenced in the testimonials.

I lived with my husband. But then, the age came and took him away from me. (F77)

We lived in a tiny cottage [...] But then the age came early for me, because I'm 12 years older than him. He has a younger woman now and I live alone, old and alone. (F 68)

My husband and I were each other's companions, at all, but he had a massive stroke, so I was alone. (F73)

It is observed in the next to last statement, the establishment of a negative relationship between the aging process and the constitution of the single home, like represent two factors interrelated and inherent to each other. Given this, health professionals, especially nurses, need to consider these specificities in the planning of actions of care among the elderly in general. It is suggested a special preparation of nurses regarding the approach of the aging process by the elderly, in order to promote reflection on the constant changes and individual at all stages of life and recognition necessary to deal with the losses and seek to new acquisitions during the whole process, in order to experience it in a natural and healthy way10.

The constitution of the single home is also an option for some elderly.

I've been married a long time, but then my wife started with a modernity of wanting to lead in the house?! That's when I decided to leave and find a place for me, to live the way I think right. Better alone than in bad company! (M 69)

I live alone because I like to do things my way. I'm dating now, and she wants to live together, but I don't want to, because each one has a system of life. I wouldn't change my freedom.. (M 82)

Living alone is to give wings to people. Today I don't want to get arrested, not living in captivity of the children, I want to do things my way, go wherever I want without having someone controlling. Elderly also need freedom, even to maintain their quality of life. (M 73)

It is observed, in recent statements, the association between living alone and the maintenance of autonomy/freedom, which is in line with results found in population-based study, held in Belo Horizonte, whose findings pointed that living alone allows to better define their space and decide on how to organize the house, the schedules, without leaving, however, to maintain relations with relatives and friends11.

Also related to the autonomy/freedom, a study conducted with elderly, in the interior of Rio Grande do Sul found that for them the autonomy and decision-making power, within their own home, represent a fundamental factor for their quality of life and preservation of their dignity. When they have imposed decisions, regardless of how they should act and what to do, the elderly feel they lose freedom12.13. With this, there is the importance of health professionals reinforce the guidelines related to elimination of risk factors for the development/aggravation of chronic diseases, with a view to maintaining the autonomy and preservation of independence, factors that are fundamental for the elderly to being able to live alone.

The Constitution of single home can also represent an opportunity to start over and assign new meaning to life.

[...] I used to live with my children and I did not like it! I was getting used to do the housework while everyone was on the street and I was out of the things of the world. I came to live alone. And here I do things my way, it's like I've started a new phase of my life. (F72)

I lived with my daughter. Sometimes my daughter took my money and said I had to help at home, but at one point I was paying all out there! I'm starting my life over again, because I have suffered with my son and drunk husband. (F67)

The old man who can live alone has to go, because we're old, but we need to get a life, have fun, meet other people. (F76)

The elderly need to realize how good it is to have your house, and that old age is on the skin, in the body, but the heart and the head, if we want to, we can keep young for life. Often the decision to live alone can mean the opportunity of a new beginning ... for me it was that (F83)

It is observed that this perception of resumption is related to opportunities previously denied by the relations established throughout life. In a European study, conducted in the United Kingdom with the elderly, residing in specific condominium for elderly people, it was observed that this type of housing mode provides a positive lifestyle, and offers opportunities not experienced previously and that directly influence the quality of life of the elderly14.

To live alone it is necessary health and friends

The possible imbalances in the general situation of health, as for example, the sequels, temporary or permanent, which may limit the exercise of activities of daily life, were the main disadvantages identified with the constitution of the single home.

Oh, there is one thing that makes me very afraid and I think very bad living alone – it is because some day we get sick and we don´t have who takes care of us! (F63)

I get worried when I think that, please God! we're bad at night, with a disease and we're alone. (F78)

The bad thing of living alone is that there comes a time that you can't do all things out for yourself, especially when we get sick. (F86)

While I'm doing everything by myself and doing everything, things are fine, but what I don't like to think about, is if someday I stay in bed. (F64)

Independence compromised due to occurrence of diseases is a generator factor of insecurity for some elderly people who live alone, which corroborates the results of a study conducted by the elderly in the metropolitan region of Belo Horizonte, in order to determine the factors associated with functional incapacity among elderly11. Therefore, it is necessary to invest in health interventions aimed at the promotion of self-care in order to make the individual responsible by his own care, which significantly reduces the development of diseases and/or complications that can compromise the daily routine of activities15.16.

Despite the disadvantage reported previously, it was observed that the fact of living in a condominium is perceived by certain elderly as a factor in favor of the constitution of a single home.

Even though living alone, we feel safe because in any problem we have neighbors. After I moved here, I got a companion, friend and companion to help me at times I need [...]. (F74)

These days I got sick and asked for the girl next door go along with me on the Health Center. Lucky that here, even though living alone, the neighborhood helps. (F71)

Living alone, but have these neighbors [...] here, living in the same courtyard, is good. Any trouble we run there. (M77)

The physical structure of the condominium allows maintaining the individuality of the elderly since each one has their home, however, it also allows interaction between residents by relying on a common environment (square, Elderly Gym and the community garden). It is evidenced that even residing alone, some elderly feel more relieved to have someone around to help them and understanding this need because of their experiences.

A study conducted in São Paulo, also with elderly living in condominium, pointed out one of the positive aspects of living in a particular housing for elderly, companionship among the residents facing situations of hardship and need for support2. In that sense, European study also highlighted the benefits from the establishment of links between the elderly residents of special condominium and its influence on quality of life of the elderly4.

Finally, it is worth noting that in the condominium where the study was conducted, if the elderly presents any change in his health condition and become dependent on care, will leave one of the basic requirements to reside in the home, and thus will be forwarded to a service of the municipality with caregivers. Before the exposed, it is reinforced the need for investments by the health professionals, in the planning and implementation of self-care actions geared toward the elderly that resides alone in order to maintain their autonomy and independence, since they constitute factors directly related to the type of house arrangement constituted.



Assuming the results obtained in the research, some of the elderly considered that the constitution of the single home is because of the separation or death of the partner. Other recognized as a choice and opportunity to start. It was noted also that the constitution of the single home was related directly with the maintenance of autonomy, which generates insecurity to the elderly in situations of illness. However, certain elderly commented that, for residing in a particular Condominium and surrounded by other elderly, they also experience the same insecurities, feeling more relieved for having always around someone to count on.

As regards the challenges and potentials in the constitution of single home, it is necessary that health professionals, especially nurses, to act together to this population with the aim of reducing the risk factors, encouraging the adoption of self-care actions aiming at maintenance of health.

As limitation of the study, it is considered the fact that the information had been obtained from the elderly living in only one Elderly Condominium. It is suggested to conduct new research in other condominiums in order to compare and/or confirm the results found here.



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