Wartime experiences and their implications for the everyday lives of older people

Judith Sixsmith, Andrew Sixsmith, Matthew Callender, Susan Corr

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticlepeer-review


Past research has documented the influences that 'traumatic’ memories of war have on older people's mental health (e.g. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). However, fewer studies have explored the longer-term implications of wartime experiences for older men and women's everyday lives. This article explores the impact of Second World War experiences on older men and women living in the United Kingdom (UK), to provide an insight into how such experiences influence how they construct their daily lives. Forty UK-based participants born between 1914 and 1923 were interviewed as part of the ENABLE-AGE project that was undertaken in five European countries. The key concepts underpinning the interview schedule were: home, independence, participation, health and wellbeing, and societal supports. The data were analysed using a grounded theory approach. Participants emphasised how wartime experiences continue to hold significance within their lives and settings some 60 years later. Seven themes emerged from the analysis. Four of these reflect the way wartime experiences remain important influences on participants' present-day social worlds: comradeship, storytelling about the war, community and alienation, and long-term physical effects. A further three themes reflect how skills and personal characteristics defined by wartime experiences are embedded in the way many older people continue to negotiate and structure their practical lives: managing, resilience and adaptability, and independence.
Original languageEnglish
Article number9
Pages (from-to)1457-1481
Number of pages25
JournalAgeing and Society
Issue number9
Early online date26 Jun 2013
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2014


  • Second World War
  • home
  • old age
  • social relationships
  • wartime experiences


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