Balance of Occupation in Older Adults: Experiences in a Residential Care Home

Jane Prince, D Hearle, V Rees

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


– The significant increase in the number of older adults in the UK population is expected to continue. Physical and psychological problems associated with ageing often require older adults to move into residential care where opportunities to participate in previously enjoyed occupations may be limited. Engagement in self‐selected purposeful activities is positively related to physical and psychological well‐being. This paper aims to focus on some of these issues.

– An ethnographic approach, a single case study of one care home in a semi‐rural area of Wales was designed to investigate the balance of occupation of residents. Occupations were observed and recorded using a time‐sampling frame over 12 hours on three consecutive days. Field notes were used to contextualise the data in reflecting the home environment.

– The majority spent their time in the lounges and remained passive, interacting infrequently with staff and one another. Little opportunity or intervention has been afforded to residents to encourage or support participation in occupation.

Research limitations/implications
– A single case study may not be representative of the experiences of residents in other care homes. Time limited observation over different locations may miss activities. Future research could extend the scope of the study.

Practical implications
– Older adults in residential care should be supported to engage in occupations. Employment of occupational therapists could allow support to be individually and appropriately focussed. There are implications for health and social care course design and also for the training of care workers.

– The paper illustrates observation of activities in a care home over an extended period.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)125 - 135
Number of pages10
JournalQuality in Ageing
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jul 2012


  • ageing and identity
  • quality of life
  • balance of occupation
  • Older adults
  • Residential care
  • Engagement
  • Occupations
  • Case studies
  • Observational methods
  • Elderly people
  • Social care
  • United Kingdom
  • Experience


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