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Public Health


Cheryl Anderson


Homelessness among older women is a growing problem in many metropolitan areas of the United States. Researchers have indicated that health issues and problems accessing basic care are connected. Older homeless women face increased health issues, multiple challenges related to accessing basic care, and low incomes which put them at higher risk of becoming homeless, staying homeless, and delaying medical treatment. The homeless who lack fulfillment of social support and timely medical care are considered repetitive users of the emergency department and hospital stays. The purpose of this phenomenological study was to explore the experiences and beliefs of older homeless women with system access. The research questions were focused on what the study participants knew about healthcare system access, their personal experiences, and linked uses of access with healthcare services, as well as, negative barriers and enablers. Guided by the theory of disengagement, face-to-face in-depth interviews with 12 homeless women ages 45 and above was performed. Content analysis was used to analyze responses from interviewees. Findings included the lived experiences and beliefs regarding healthcare services linked with personal health, barriers related to healthcare services, and enablers toward healthcare access. The results of this study produced needed insights on how to shift public and persuasive support methods to meet changing health needs and desires of older homeless women. This study may lead to positive social change through gained knowledge of the personal experiences, beliefs, attitudes, and perceptions of older homeless women.