AIMS AND OBJECTIVES: To present results from interviews of older people living in nursing homes, on how they experience freedom.BACKGROUND: We know that freedom is an existential human matter, and research shows that freedom remains important throughout life. Freedom is also important for older people, but further research is needed to determine how these people experience their freedom. The background for this article was a Scandinavian study that occurred in nursing homes; the purpose of the study was to gain knowledge about whether the residents felt that their dignity was maintained and respected.DESIGN: The design was hermeneutic, with qualitative research interviews.METHOD: Twenty-eight residents living in nursing homes in Denmark, Sweden and Norway were interviewed. Collecting tools used were an interview guide and also a tape recorder. Researchers in the three countries performed the interviews. The data were transcribed and analysed on three levels of hermeneutic interpretation.RESULTS: To have their freedom was emphasised as very important according to their experience of having their dignity taken care of. The following main themes emerged: (a) Autonomy or paternalism; (b) Inner and outer freedom; and (c) Dependence as an extra burden.CONCLUSIONS: Residents in a nursing home may experience the feeling of having lost their freedom. This conclusion has implications for healthcare professionals and researchers, as it is important for residents in nursing homes to feel that they still have their freedom.RELEVANCE TO CLINICAL PRACTICE: In clinical practice, it is important and valuable for the staff to consider how they can help older people feel that they still have their freedom.