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.
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.
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.
A number of theoretical conclusions related to unpredictability and the decision-making process around activating PERS were generated.