Where Is the Evidence Base to Help Occupational Therapists Select Technological Occupations for Current and Future Service Users?

By Gillen, Ailsa; Watkins, Joella | British Journal of Occupational Therapy, February 2011 | Go to article overview

Where Is the Evidence Base to Help Occupational Therapists Select Technological Occupations for Current and Future Service Users?


Gillen, Ailsa, Watkins, Joella, British Journal of Occupational Therapy


Video game console technology (VGCT) is advancing, with the latest innovations being published regularly. Simultaneously, the current Baby Boomer and Generation X generations are adding to the increasing numbers within the ageing population. This population is conversant and comfortable with technology in all aspects of their life, but in particular within their leisure occupations. Occupational therapy must ensure that it not only understands changes in occupational engagement but also is willing to use VGCT as part of the intervention choices it offers to service users. However, there is a paucity of evidence around this, which occupational therapy would do well to address.

Introduction

The news that Microsoft is about to 'enter the third dimension' (Barras 2010, p22) of interactive computer use is not only exciting for occupational therapy but also a timely point of reflection.

In 2008, the National Statistics Office stated that the fastest growing age group in the English and Welsh population is those aged 80 years and over. Currently in the United Kingdom (UK), men receive a state pension at 65 years of age and, since 2010, the age at which women receive a state pension has been gradually rising from 60 to 65 years of age. However, the UK, like other countries, has proposed further increases to the age at which pensions are payable. What this analysis does not take into account, however, are the choices of occupation available to those of the Baby Boomer and Generation X generations, and the ways in which purposeful and meaningful occupations contribute to health and wellbeing over the lifespan (Verdonck and Ryan 2008, Vrkljan 2010). These generations have been described as not only being healthier and with more disposable income than previous generations (Jones 1980) but also having more leisure time available to them (Hamblett and Deversen 1964).

Occupational therapy and the ageing population

Historically and currently, occupational therapists are seen to use creative activities as one of many therapeutic milieux, for example arts and crafts, to assess and intervene with those who require occupational therapy to address occupational needs, such as leisure needs (Chard 2007). These activities are broken down by the process of activity analysis (Creek and Lougher 2008) and, as such, these creative activities address occupational needs in both physical and mental health terms. However, if person-centred care is to be delivered, and account taken of different lifestyles that increase social, physical and mental activity through meaningful interventions (Department of Health 2001), then occupational therapists must continue to be mindful of what constitutes meaningful occupation for the ageing population.

Use of general technology and occupational therapy

A game console has been described as:

A specialized desktop computer used to play video games (www.answers.com).

Given the widespread use of information technology within the current Baby Boomer and Generation X generations, the importance of incorporating it into occupational therapy interventions needs to be recognised (Pollard 2006). These generations of people have been using, for example, video game console technology (VGCT) as part of their leisure occupations since they were children and /or adolescents (www.thegameconsole.com).

This begs the question of how occupational therapists can continue to make the therapy they offer relevant and meaningful to generations who are using VGCT on a daily basis in their leisure occupations. If the Baby Boomer and Generation X generations are currently using VGCT in their leisure occupations, then they will do so in their older age. Therefore, occupational therapy and its philosophy dictate that occupational therapists need to be addressing VGCT leisure occupations within their practice now.

A review of the literature demonstrates a paucity of evidence on the use of technology in general within occupational therapy. …

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