“We are all dropping off like flies...it’s a fact”:
: A hermeneutic-phenomenological exploration of a bereavement focused Compassionate Communities intervention in extra care housing

  • Caity Roleston

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis explores ExtraCare Charitable Trust citizens’ lived experience participating in a Compassionate Communities (CC) (Kellehear, 2005) intervention to address the bereavement support needs of people living and working within their villages and schemes. The CC movement is motivated to redress the medicalisation and sequestration of life limiting illness, dying, and bereavement. Reclaiming death and bereavement as fundamental to the human experience, the CC movement seeks to normalise and neutralise these phenomena and augment clinically focused care with community orientated care and advocacy. This thesis sought to understand the meanings associated with undertaking and participating in an innovative and unique CC intervention. Specifically, by occupying a critical gerontological lens a dialogue was facilitated between multiple, and seemingly
disparate, literatures which permitted nuanced, culturally, and historically situated experiential understandings to be constructed.

As there were multiple interconnected actors at play, a multiperspectival approach enabled me to capture not only rich idiographic narratives, but also permitted critical interpersonal and organisational features to flourish. Findings from reflexive thematic analyses are discussed in three empirical chapters. The first explores the nature of bereavement and bereavement support within ExtraCare. It seeks to explicate the needs of bereaved older people and the obstacles that inhibited implementation of the Bereavement Supporter Project. The second occupies a granular position and centres upon the lived experience of
volunteerism among older people and the meaning ascribed to this undertaking. The third and final empirical chapter shifts to an abductive logical of inquiry in an effort to connect the generated data from this research to wider gerontological discourses and concerns. All three studies attest to the pervasiveness of so-called positive ageing paradigms and the limits they place on how we ought to age and how we ought to think about ageing and older people within our societies (Holstein, 2006). I conclude by drawing parallels between ‘successful ageing’ and ‘good grief’ narratives and caution the CC and death positive movements against settling an orthodoxy for what constitutes ‘good grief’.
Date of AwardOct 2022
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorKaren A West (Supervisor) & Rachel Shaw (Supervisor)


  • Compassionate Communities, bereavement, critical gerontology, peer support, extra care housing

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