As populations age, numbers of older carers are increasing. These carers play a vital role in supporting others, often partners or spouses with dementia.
This narrative review synthesised peer-reviewed evidence published over the last two decades concerning the experiences of carers aged over 75 years, specifically exploring whether their experiences differ from those of younger carers. Four electronic databases were searched and 4102 publications were identified. Eighteen studies involving over one thousand carer participants were included (11 quantitative, 6 qualitative, and 1 mixed-methods study). Most studies came from Europe or North America and almost all were cross-sectional, but few directly compared younger and older carers, making it difficult to determine whether carers’ experiences vary with age. Quantitative studies generally emphasised the challenges of caring and frequently highlighted, for example, relationships between carer characteristics and negative outcomes such as burden. Qualitative studies were often more positive, emphasising carers’ active responses and the rewards of caring. The normality of caring was highlighted, with some suggesting that caring may be less challenging for older than for younger carers.
As with younger carers, being an older carer can be both rewarding and difficult. Our understanding of the experiences of these older carers would be enhanced with more research specifically comparing older and younger carers or comparing older carers and those not in a caring role. Carers are diverse and future research should explore the experiences of carers from different demographic groups. More longitudinal research perhaps focusing on caring dyads and mutual caring is needed.