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Dignity and Older Europeans

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The first project to be undertaken was the Dignity and Older Europeans study. The project was multi-disciplinary involving nurses, philosophers, sociologists, psychologists, clinicians, health service researchers and NGOs. The eight partners who were from six European countries were as follows:

University of Wales College of Medicine, UK (Dr W Tadd, Coordinator); Cardiff University, UK (Dr A Edgar); Fundacio Hospital Asil de Granollers, Spain (Dr S Ariño-Blasco); Postgraduate Academy of Medicine, Slovakia (Professor S Krajcik); Age Action Ireland Ltd, Ireland (Mr R Webster); University of Linköping, Sweden (Professor L Nordenfelt); Aquitaine Organisation of Research and Information and Co-ordination on Older People, France (Dr J-J Amyot) and The Medical Research Council Health Services Research Collaboration, UK (Professor P Dieppe).



The research adopted a multi-method approach to investigate the experience of dignity in the lives of older people including eliciting views from the older people, younger and middle-aged people and health and social care providers, as well as a number of other activities and methods, such as the construction of a bibliographic database and philosophical analysis undertaken to develop a theoretical model of dignity. Across the 6 countries, eighty-nine focus groups and 18 individual interviews were carried out involving three hundred and ninety-one older people; eighty-five focus groups were carried out involving four hundred and twenty-four health and social care providers and eighty-nine focus groups were carried out involving 505 adult participants from younger and middle-aged groups.

A theoretical model of dignity was developed and its relevance to the experience of dignity in the lives of older people was examined from the perspectives of older people, health and social care professionals and young and middle-aged adults in the participating countries.


Summary Findings

The results showed that dignity is a multi-dimensional and rich concept which has meaning and salience for older people in many areas of their lives. Socio-cultural influences on older people’s experience of various types of dignity were wide-ranging and reflected the social position of older people. For older people in particular, the language of dignity appears to play an important role in protesting against feelings of humiliation, embarrassment and exclusion and often reflects an objection to ageism.  

The key dimensions of dignity for older people are personal identity, respect, recognition, participation and control. Discussions of dignity were frequently illustrated by examples drawn from older people’s experiences of health and social care, especially those where their dignity was threatened or violated.


Project Outputs

This project generated renewed interest in dignity especially in relation to health and social care and resulted in many  national and international presentations to academic, professional and lay audiences.

The work is widely cited on the Social Care Institute for Excellence website relating to dignity.

In Wales, following this study Dr Tadd was invited to chair the Dignity in Care National Coordinating group of the Welsh Government, from 2007 – 2011.


Older People’s views (Comparative Report)

Professional’s views (Comparative Report)

Adult’s views (Comparative Report)


Tadd W, Vanlaere L and Gastmans C, (2010). ‘Clarifying the Concept of Human Dignity in the Care of the Elderly: A Dialogue between Empirical and Philosophical Approaches’. Ethical Perspectives. 17:1, pp. 259-87.

Tadd W and Calnan M 2009 , Caring for Older People : Why Dignity Matters - The European Experience in Nordenfelt l (eds) Dignity in care for older people; Chapter 6 , p119-142, Wiley-Blackwell

Tadd W, (2006). Dignity and Older Europeans in Ethics, Law and Society, Volume III. Edited by Gunning J and Holm S, London: Ashgate. pp. 73-92

Tadd W and Bayer A, (2006). ‘Dignity in health and social care for older Europeans: Implications of a European project’. Aging Health. 2:5, pp. 771-79.

Woolhead, G, Tadd W, Boix-Ferrier J, Krajcik S, Schmid-Pfahler B, Stratton D, Dieppe P, (2006). ‘Tu’ or ‘Vous?’ A European qualitative study of dignity and communication with older people in health and social care settings’. Patient Education and counselling. 61:3, pp. 363-71.

Arino-Blasco S, Tadd W and Boix-Ferrer J A (2005). ‘Dignity and older people: The voice of professionals’. Quality in Ageing: Policy, Practice and Research. 6:1, pp. 30-36.

Bayer A, Tadd W, Krajicik S, (2005). ‘Dignity: The voice of older people’. Quality in Ageing: Policy, Practice and Research. 6:1, pp.22-9.

Calnan M, Woolhead G, Dieppe P and Tadd W, (2005). ‘Views on Dignity in providing health care for older people’. Nursing Times. 101:33, pp.38-41

Calnan M and Tadd W, (2005). ‘Dignity and Older Europeans: Methodology’. Quality in Ageing: Policy, Practice and Research. June. 6:1, pp. 10-16.

Nordenfelt L and Edgar A, (2005). ‘The Four Notions of Dignity’. Quality in Aging-policy, practice and research. 6:1, pp. 17-21.

Stratton D and Tadd W, (2005). ‘Dignity and older people: The voice of society’. Quality in Ageing: Policy, Practice and Research. 6:1. pp. 37-45.

Tadd W and Dieppe P, (2005). ‘Educating for Dignity’. Quality in Ageing – Policy, practice and research. 6:2, pp. 4-9.

Tadd W, (2005). ‘Dignity and Older Europeans’, (Editorial). Quality in Ageing – Policy, practice and research. 6:1, pp. 2-5.

Tadd W, (2005). ‘Dignity and Older Europeans’, (Editorial). Quality in Ageing – Policy, practice and research. 6:2, pp. 2-3.

Tadd W, (2005). Educating for Dignity: A Multi-Disciplinary Workbook

Edgar A, (2004). ‘A Response to Nordenfelt’s The Varieties of Dignity’. Health Care Analysis. 12: pp. 83-9.

Nordenfelt L, (2004). ‘The Varieties of Dignity’. Health Care Analysis. 12:2, pp. 69-81, discussion pp.83-89.

Woolhead G, Calnan M, Dieppe P and Tadd W, (2004). ‘Dignity in older age: What do older people in the United Kingdom think? Age and Ageing. 33: pp. 165-70.

Edgar A, (2003). ‘Velazquez and the Representation of Dignity’. Medicine Health Care and Philosophy. 6:2, pp. 111-21.

Nordenfelt L, (2003). ‘Dignity and the Care of the Elderly’. Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy. 6:2, pp. 103-10.

Tadd W, (2003). The Dignity Balance Poster. [Online] Available at http:www. [Accessed 23 August 2010].

Nordenfelt L, (2002). Four concepts of dignity. Dignity and Older European Study Publication.

Tadd W, Dieppe P and Bayer T, (2002). ‘Dignity in health care: reality or rhetoric’. Reviews in Clinical Gerontology. 2: pp. 1-4.

Tadd W and Bayer A J, (2001). Dignity as a feature of complaints made by elderly people. Age and Ageing. 30: Supplement 2: pp. 40.

Tadd W, (2000). ‘Aging and ageism in the 21st century’. (Editorial). Reviews in Clinical Gerontology. 10: pp. 203-05.

Educational Materials

Educating for Dignity workbook