End-stage kidney disease (ESKD) patients are living longer, often into older age, and commonly pursue kidney transplantation. Successful aging, a multidimensional construct of physical and social wellbeing, has been expanded and adapted for patients with chronic disease. However, perceptions of, barriers to, and experiences with successful aging among adults with ESKD are unclear and likely differ based on whether they have received a kidney transplant.
Ten focus groups were held with 39 total ESKD patients aged ≥50 years (19 transplant candidates, 20 transplant recipients). Transcriptions were analyzed thematically by 2 independent coders using an inductive, constant comparative approach.
The mean age was 64.8 (SD = 7.5); 51% were African American and 64% were males. Six themes were identified: familiarity with successful aging, perceptions of successful aging after ESKD diagnosis, barriers to successful aging, experiences with successful aging among transplant candidates, experiences with successful aging among transplant recipients, and suggested interventions. While all participants sought to achieve successful aging while living with ESKD, experiences with successful aging differed between candidates and recipients. Candidates struggled with the limitations of dialysis; some viewed transplantation as an opportunity to age successfully, while others were resigned to the drawbacks of dialysis. In contrast, transplant recipients were optimistic about their ability to age successfully, believing their transplant facilitated successful aging. Participants believed support groups for adults with ESKD and more thoughtful health care for aging adults would promote successful aging.
Adults with ESKD may benefit from discussions with their clinicians and caregivers about goals, barriers, and strategies regarding successful aging.