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Older adults' experiences of living with cleft lip and palate: A qualitative study exploring aging and appearance

Hamlet, Claire; Harcourt, Diana


Claire Hamlet
Occasional Associate Lecturer - CHSS - HSS

Diana Harcourt
Professor in Appearance Research


© Copyright 2015 American Cleft Palate-Craniofacial Association. Objective: To explore older adults' experiences of living with cleft lip and/or palate (CL/P), focusing on aging and appearance. Design: An exploratory-descriptive qualitative study. Participants: Individual semi-structured interviews (five via telephone, one face-to-face) conducted with six adults between the ages of 57 and 82 years. Results: Interview transcripts were analyzed using interpretative phenomenological analysis, which resulted in five themes: cleft across the life span, keeping up appearances, being one of a kind, resilience and protection, and cleft in an ever-changing society. A CL/P had an ongoing impact on participants' lives, although its relevance shifted over time and some aspects of life (e.g., romantic relationships, decisions about having children of their own) were particularly affected. Participants seemed at ease living with CL/P as an older adult and considered it an important aspect of their identity, yet they still described feeling isolated at times and had little contact with other people with a cleft. They felt that health care could be more considerate to the needs of older people with a cleft, particularly around dentistry and information provision. Participants thought societal attitudes toward visible differences had changed over the years, but not necessarily for the better. A paradox was evident between reports of being noticed by others because of their cleft and simultaneously feeling invisible or ignored because of their age. Conclusions: These findings have implications for provision of care for older adults with a CL/P and for younger people with a CL/P who will be the older generation of the future.


Hamlet, C., & Harcourt, D. (2015). Older adults' experiences of living with cleft lip and palate: A qualitative study exploring aging and appearance. Cleft Palate-Craniofacial Journal, 52(2), e32-e40.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Jan 1, 2015
Deposit Date May 26, 2015
Journal Cleft Palate-Craniofacial Journal
Print ISSN 1055-6656
Electronic ISSN 1545-1569
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 52
Issue 2
Pages e32-e40
Keywords aging, appearance, cleft lip/palate, older people, qualitative, visible difference
Public URL
Publisher URL