Wartime experiences and their implications for the everyday lives of older people

Judith Sixsmith (Lead / Corresponding author), Andrew Sixsmith, Matthew Callender, Susan Corr

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    10 Citations (Scopus)


    Past research has documented the influences that 'traumatic' memories of war have on older people's mental health (e.g. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). However, fewer studies have explored the longer-term implications of wartime experiences for older men and women's everyday lives. This article explores the impact of Second World War experiences on older men and women living in the United Kingdom (UK), to provide an insight into how such experiences influence how they construct their daily lives. Forty UK-based participants born between 1914 and 1923 were interviewed as part of the ENABLE-AGE project that was undertaken in five European countries. The key concepts underpinning the interview schedule were: home, independence, participation, health and wellbeing, and societal supports. The data were analysed using a grounded theory approach. Participants emphasised how wartime experiences continue to hold significance within their lives and settings some 60 years later. Seven themes emerged from the analysis. Four of these reflect the way wartime experiences remain important influences on participants' present-day social worlds: comradeship, storytelling about the war, community and alienation, and long-term physical effects. A further three themes reflect how skills and personal characteristics defined by wartime experiences are embedded in the way many older people continue to negotiate and structure their practical lives: managing, resilience and adaptability, and independence.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1457-1481
    Number of pages25
    JournalAgeing and Society
    Issue number9
    Publication statusPublished - Oct 2014


    • home
    • old age
    • Second World War
    • social relationships
    • wartime experiences

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Health(social science)
    • Social Psychology
    • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
    • Geriatrics and Gerontology
    • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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