An exploratory study of informal support and life satisfaction of older persons in Macau

Student thesis: MPhil Thesis (Lingnan)


The purpose of the research is to explore the forms of support provided by informal support networks of spouse, adult children, relatives, friends and neighbours for older persons in Macau. The research also attempts to identify the elements that contribute to life satisfaction among active older persons. As little research has been conducted in Macau, this study tries to introduce data and possible suggestions for initiatives in elderly policy in this area.

The thesis adopts mainly a qualitative approach in exploring the possible informal support elements that contribute to life satisfaction as perceived by active older persons. Sixty-five in depth interviews with 40 female and 25 male older persons aged from 65 to 90 invited as respondents, all of whom were active and of good health status, were conducted either in old age centers or older persons’ apartments from late July to Mid October in Macau. Triangulation of various sources, the sources of data was employed to cross-check the validity of the initial explanations derived included two focus group discussions, key informant interviews, a review of the published literature, independent member checking as well as content analysis with correlation analysis.

Content analysis using open and axial coding identified four major types of support: tangible support, informational support, companionship support and emotional support. The research revealed that children and a spouse mainly provided emotional and tangible support. Companionship support was mainly provided by friends. Information support came the last, and was only important when it comes to crucial issues such as going to hospital, or when wishing to apply for specific services.

In terms of the sources of informal support, the findings indicated that adult children are regarded as the primary reliable persons who provided various forms of support for their older parents. This care and support was regarded as obligatory in nature. The second primary support source was spousal. Spouses provided personal daily care for each other. Friends mainly provided companionship support and the support is voluntary in nature. Perhaps unexpectedly, the research found that relatives provided the least frequent support due to distance and sometimes relationships were poor.

With respect to the relationship between informal support and life satisfaction, the results obtained by a series of correlation analysis reviewed that being concerned and cared for, respected, providing money for daily necessities, meetings and decisions-making by children are important for older persons and are statistically significant to life satisfaction. The support provided by children can create a sense of security and well being associated with life satisfaction. The mutual care by a spouse creates a sense of security and in turn enhances life satisfaction. Friends provided companionship support in terms of chatting, and participating in social activities, which enrich life quality and contribute to life satisfaction. It is notable that relatives’ support did not contribute very much to life satisfaction.

This research suggests the value of strengthening community care services by providing old age allowance, promoting intergeneration education and encouraging older persons to be active in participating in social activities. These can enhance the well being of older persons in Macau. Social policy for older persons should potentially aim at achieving this end.
Date of Award2001
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Department of Sociology and Social Policy
SupervisorDavid Rosser PHILLIPS (Supervisor) & Oi Ling SIU (Supervisor)

Cite this