Long-term health and mobility of older adults following traumatic injury: a qualitative longitudinal study

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Purpose: The aim of this study was to explore older adults’ experiences of and approaches to managing their long-term health and mobility after traumatic injury. Methods: A longitudinal qualitative study was undertaken with older adults following traumatic injury in Victoria, Australia. Fifteen participants (≥65 years) were interviewed at three years post-injury (n = 15), and re-interviewed at four (n = 14) and five years (n = 12) post-injury. Using a framework approach, a longitudinal thematic analysis was performed. Results: Older age at the time of injury was identified by participants as a key factor influencing their recovery. Many participants reported actively attempting to regain their strength and fitness in the first five years following injury. However, their age, injury impacts, other health conditions, and weight gain made it difficult to achieve recovery goals. Many older adults reported a decline in their physical function over time. While these experiences and persistent disability constrained or changed the quality of social relationships, community participation, and independence, several participants described adapting to their functional limitations, and managing their secondary conditions over time. Conclusion: In our cohort, the intertwined combination of ageing, injury, and comorbid conditions negatively affected health and mobility, reinforcing the need for preventative strategies.Implications for rehabilitation Older adults recovering from traumatic injury may benefit from specialised care pathways that offer long-term and tailored therapies, with programs and services specific to their needs and goals. An integrated service approach by injury insurers, health care, primary care, disability, and aged care could more clearly identify and effectively address the individual needs and goals of older adults with complex conditions. Health and social services that work with people with injuries to develop personalised coping strategies can reduce anxiety related to uncertainty about the future, promote well-being, and support participation in valued activities.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages11
JournalDisability and Rehabilitation
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Nov 2021


  • ageing
  • disability
  • Older adult
  • qualitative
  • recovery
  • traumatic injury

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