Sociologist Aaron Antonovsky coined the term ‘salutogenesis’ in 1968 to explain why some people manage to live well even when subject to extreme stress or illness. He described three conditions as being necessary to live as full a life as possible:
The experience of making sense of one’s own context, life story and current circumstances.
the experience of managing day-to-day physical realities; staying warm, dry, clean, rested and nourished.
the foundation of the desire to live; a belief that things in life are interesting, satisfying and worthwhile.
Salutogenesis focuses on factors that support health and wellbeing; it goes beyond the more traditional, pathogenic focus on risk and problems.
It seems to us that Antonovsky’s ideas have a lot to tell us about the type of care and services that people with dementia need; ones that support comprehensibility, manageability and meaningfulness rather than focussing on problems or symptoms.