The starting point being the established understanding of rehabilitation as a cross disciplinary field circumscribed by broader political and health professional issues, the paper discusses the rehabilitation of elderly persons from conceptual and phenomenological perspectives.

Textbooks from the period 1996 to 2005 are examined in order to define the understanding of the nursing profession’s concept of rehabilitation. Sections with a gerontological perspective on rehabilitation following hip replacement are selected for discussion.

Although essential to the knowledge base and practice of nursing, the finding was that the textbook literature describes a concept of rehabilitation which does not take into account the research and reflective understandings.

We offer our interpretation of rehabilitation as a theme in health philosophy thinking, maintaining that essential themes for consideration in gerontological nursing include aspects such as: A holistic view of the maintenance of body functions, dignity and identity, and the dialectics of fragility and strength in the elderly person.