Date of Award


Document Type

Union College Only

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts






nursing, home, life, quality, residents


The purpose of this study is to examine the lives of America’s elderly population in relation to the social systems that support them. More specifically, the majority of American seniors will spend at least some time in a nursing home, and with the nation growing increasingly “gray” as the baby boomer generation ages, the country’s long term care system is a topic of growing social interest. Through working with seniors in several different capacities through my time in high school and at Union, I have come into contact with many happy individuals over the age of 65 who are thoroughly enjoying their late life experiences, including residing in a nursing home. However, I have also met many elders who feel that their happiness, individuality, and autonomy have been unnecessarily diminished through their living in a nursing home. This variety of reactions to life in a nursing home has lead me to investigate the different ways in which this unique living arrangement relates to residents’ quality of life. Through my own experiences and interactions with nursing home residents prior to beginning this study, I hypothesize that the greater the emphasis placed by the nursing home’s administration on the social and emotional care of residents, the higher their quality of life will be. To examine this premise, a study of existing literature on many different aspects of nursing home life is necessary. First, a working concept of “quality of life” must be established. Then, an understanding of who America’s seniors are is required; their demographics, their financial status and the common monetary issues that they face, the diseases and disabilities they are battling, their familial relationships, and their living arrangements are all of primary concern in this investigation. Also, the complete comprehension of the structure of long term care in the United States in essential; how it is financed, administrated, what makes a “good” nursing home and what makes a “bad” nursing home, relationships between residents and staff, social life within the nursing home, and particularities of this institutional living situation are all crucial to understanding this social system’s relationship with quality of life. With all of this knowledge, I hope to look through the eyes of America’s elderly nursing home residents and paint a picture of their lives; I hope to find out what is most important to them as individuals, and how the long term care system could be improved to best complement these values and provide America’s seniors with the highest possible quality of life.