A familiar topic
“We researchers were told to be careful when talking about death in our interviews. This is why we asked the interviewees if death, too, could be discussed at some point.”
Saarelainen was surprised by how eager the interviewees were.
“It quickly became clear that the interviewees were not afraid of death, or to talk about it. On the contrary, they were grateful to have someone willing to talk about death with them, since their own family sometimes preferred to avoid the topic. “
Although the themes of the interview pertained to their everyday life and familiar topics, death emerged as the easiest.
“One of the interviewees told me that they were anxious about the interviews but were relieved upon hearing that death would be one of the topics, feeling like they had expertise in the matter. Death was, generally speaking, regarded as a pleasant topic to talk about - after all, all of the interviewees were over 90 years old, and death was a part of their life in many ways.”
When older people wish to talk about their own death with their family, the topic sometimes gets ignored. According Saarelainen, that it is a shame and might leave the elderly feeling lonely.
“Of course, it is understandable that family members may find the topic uncomfortable and difficult. However, planning one’s own funeral or making sure that certain documents are in order before death is important for older people. In a way, those are among the final things where they still have agency and they feel like they are in control of matters pertaining to their own life.”