Exploring the experiences of the older adults who are brought to live in shelter homes in Karachi, Pakistan: A qualitative study

Laila Akber Cassum, Keith Cash, Waris Qidwai, Samina Vertejee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Background: The traditional joint family system in a culturally diverse Pakistani society shows great respect and care for older population by the families and their generations. However, in the recent years the phenomenon of population ageing in Pakistan is rapidly increasing due to demographic shift influencing life expectancy, along with changes in socio-cultural values. This transition has resulted in institutionalization of the elderly as an emerging shelter alternative. The aim of this study was to explore the experiences of the elderly people and to identify the reason which compelled them to reside in these shelter homes. Method: A qualitative methodology, with a descriptive exploratory design, was adopted for the study. A purposive sample of 14 elderly males and females were selected, from two different shelter homes in Karachi, Pakistan. Semi-structured interviews were audio recorded and transcribed. Content analysis was done to extract the themes and comprehend the data. Results: Content analysis revealed five major themes: the circumstances of leaving home, experiences, and challenges to wellbeing before entering the care facility, coping with challenges, and decision to live in a shelter home. The analysis discovered that the elderly were experiencing lack of physical, psychological, emotional, and financial support from their family and children. It also indicated that migration of children for better career and employment opportunities, entrance of women into the workforce, and insensitive behaviour of children, left the senior citizens neglected and helpless. The findings also uncovered the challenges of unemployment and family disputes that the elderly had to face made them dependent, distressed, helpless, and lonely resulting in both their apparently willing and forceful decision to reside in shelter homes. Conclusion: The findings point to need for further investigation of the identified areas in this study through qualitative and quantitative researches. There is a dire need for increasing public awareness through the social, electronic, and print media, and providing capacity building training to HCPs for the care of the elderly. The lobbying group can act as a catalyst in persuading the government officials for the execution of a policy on retirement, day care and subsidized provision of health services for the betterment of the elderly.

Original languageEnglish
Article number8
JournalBMC Geriatrics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 6 Jan 2020


  • Challenges
  • Experiences
  • Institutionalization
  • Mental State Examination, Qualitative study
  • Mini
  • Older adults
  • Pakistan
  • Shelter homes


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