Objective: To examine why older persons undertake high-risk do-it-yourself (DIY) home maintenance and under what circumstances, what constitutes acceptable low-risk alternatives to DIY, and to assess if alternatives are feasible in the current context.
Design: Exploratory qualitative study using focus-group methodology.
Setting and subjects: Fifteen focus groups were conducted, involving 118 persons aged 60 years and older, in two Melbourne communities. Participants resided locally, participated in local seniors groups, or received treatment for a DIY injury at one of two public hospitals serving these communities.
Results: Older persons’ involvement in DIY ranged from necessity to choice. A number chose DIY for general fitness enhancement, satisfaction and pride in a job well done, and giving meaning and enjoyment to daily tasks. However, some older, frailer seniors were forced into DIY because of difficulties in choosing appropriate alternatives; lack of knowledge of some available resources and services; the challenge of accessing cost-effective and reliable private service providers; and fear of vulnerability to overcharging, overservicing or their personal security. Preferred DIY alternatives were local government providers, local paper advertised services, recommendations to private service providers and family, friends or neighbors. Lack of knowledge of other existing alternatives was an impediment to preventing DIY injury, or accessing DIY alternatives. A number of potentially feasible alternatives to DIY were identified from our review.
Conclusions: This research is an important first step in understanding issues facing community-dwelling seniors remaining at home, and provides a basis on which government agencies and other providers can develop services to meet increasing needs.
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