How to promote a good life and working life in the care of older people

As more and more people live longer lives, the need for care and welfare increases. It is one of the industries that employs the most Swedes – the most common profession in Sweden is in fact an assistant nurse who works in the home care service, home health care, or in special accommodations for older people.

Between 2017–2020, the researchers worked closely with care and nursing staff as well as managing staff. A total of 113 people participated in the project. The purpose has been to highlight core value issues and develop treatment and working methods in care and welfare for the older people.

The ambitions are high: to promote a good life and healthy aging for the older person, a healthy work environment, and sustainable leadership development. 

“What we have in common is an interest in working for older people’s participation in everyday life as well as working for the staff's work environment. These things must go hand in hand,” said Lise-Lotte Jonasson, Assistant Professor of Nursing Science at the School of Health and Welfare, Jönköping University.


"Let older people be involved in recruitment processes"

To get an idea of ​​the current situation of the special accommodation units that participated in the study as a starting point,, focus group interviews were initially conducted with management groups and a questionnaire was conducted with all employees. The questionnaire was then followed up with five creative workshops, or so-called future workshops, in which both care and welfare staff as well as managers participated.

The theme for the future workshops was "How can we develop an increased quality of life for older people and at the same time contribute to a sustainable and health-promoting way of working for care and nursing staff?"


The future workshops resulted in 40 different action plans full of concrete proposals, which were then followed up in reflection groups at each accommodation in relation to the implementation of the core values work.

“The proposals were about both big issues and smaller issues, for example the food situation or changes in staff schedules, working methods and routines. It was incredibly stimulating to be involved as a researcher in that process,” said Maria Wolmesjö.

She noted that changes are often initiated by the management, but that this project shows ways of working with changes initiated by employees and those who are the purpose of the organisation.

Lise-Lott Jonasson agreed. “Health care professionals, leaders, and politicians need to invite to the table, listen to, and take advantage of older people’s ideas, as they have many new ideas and suggestions for improvement. It is probably quite common for the residents to be involved when it comes to, for example, the design of the menu, but one of the participating accommodations has gone further and involves the residents in several parts of operations, such as the recruitment process.”

Conscious work on core values matters

As part of the project, the researchers also interviewed eleven older people people and one of their relatives at the two accommodations. This was followed by more focus group interviews with care and nursing staff in various positions. Finally, a follow-up questionnaire and a concluding dialogue were conducted with responsible managers and a medically responsible nurse. Throughout the project, a reference group has been involved in the design and implementation.

What affects the possibilities to introduce more values-based leadership?

“There are factors linked to both the organisation's structure and culture. The project shows that it is successful to have clearly stated core values and to invest consciously in a supportive management structure at all levels, even from senior managers and colleagues,” said Maria Wolmesjö.

About the project

The project "Sustainable leadership creation through participation - Values work in the care of older people" lasted 2017–2020 and was funded by the Kamprad Family Foundation. The project group includes:

  • Project Leader Maria Wolmesjö, Associate Professor of Social Work at the University of Borås
  • Lise-Lotte Jonasson, Assistant Professor of Nursing Science at the School of Health and Welfare, Jönköping University
  • Angela Bångsbo, Senior Lecturer in Caring Science at the University of Borås
  • Annika Billhult, Senior Lecturer in Caring Science at the University of Borås