Existential ageing and dying: A scoping review

Allan Kellehear*, Matilda Garrido

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


After significant early interest in aging and dying, recent empirical studies have been few and theoretically fragmented.

The aims of this review were to map what is empirically known about the intersections between existential aging (a sense of passing years that evoke a sense of nearness-to-death) and dying identity and to describe the available evidence.

Articles were reviewed employing PRISMA guidelines. Seven data bases were searched resulted in 165 records. Of these 165 records a final selection of 24 studies that met the criteria were examined.

Evidence from the review found that the formation of the identity of dying alongside existential aging was associated with personal changes related to self/gerotranscendence, self-concerns about the inevitability of death (mortality salience), self-concerns about the prospect of death (death anxiety), attitudes toward the older self as a moderator of attitudes to death (aging attitudes), or simply anticipating the death of self (the future). Collectively, these studies found that death and dying were threats or challenges to life as an increasingly aging identity and that this seems to require compensation or accommodation.

These studies confirm the importance of nearness-to-death on identity formation and psychological change in older populations. However, most of the studies were quantitative and tested for pre-existing ideas and concepts. There is a need for more qualitative studies to search for wider or parallel meanings about identity change in the face of aging and death, more longitudinal designs, and greater attention to mixed methods approaches, especially for populations for whom talk or writing may be restrictive.
Original languageEnglish
Article number104798
Number of pages11
JournalArchives of Gerontology and Geriatrics
Early online date31 Aug 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2023
Externally publishedYes

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