Understanding the reasons why Chinese older people do not wish to tell their life stories

Engle Angela Chan, Claudia K.Y. Lai

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Aim: To explore the reasons why older Chinese people decline to tell their life stories. Background: Promoting the telling of life stories by older people, as part of healthy ageing, may develop their sense of unity and meaning in life. However, not all older adults seem to review their past and tell others about it. Understanding is lacking about how 'healthy' older adults experience the meanings of not telling. Design: A descriptive phenomenology with Giorgi's analysis. Methods: Data were collected from June 2010-August 2011 through unstructured individual interviews. A potential sample of 36 older people were identified through convenience sampling from 17 daycare and senior centres, of whom 19 participated in this study. Results: Our findings suggest that the reasons why these older people declined to tell their life stories relate to an understanding of the self and to the perception that the older people had of their audience's response and their family's support. Older people seemed to be naturally inclined to reminiscence, but their accumulated personal and interpersonal experiences might have caused them to feel disinclined to talk about what they no longer considered to be important. Conclusion: An understanding about the tension existing in cultural/generational narratives of the older people may help health professionals to provide them with a supportive environment for their continuous construction of social identities. This may contribute to their better social health. Equally important is to provide an opportunity for them to share their stories and engage in family and cross-generational dialogues.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1661-1671
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Advanced Nursing
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2015


  • Family
  • Identity
  • Life stories
  • Not telling
  • Nurses
  • Nursing
  • Older people

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nursing(all)


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