Academic journal article British Journal of Occupational Therapy

Interests among Older People in Relation to Gender, Function and Health-Related Quality of Life

Academic journal article British Journal of Occupational Therapy

Interests among Older People in Relation to Gender, Function and Health-Related Quality of Life

Article excerpt


The World Health Organization (WHO) (2002) stated that older people should have opportunities to be active participants in an age-integrated society, where aspects such as lifestyle, the physical and social environment, socioeconomics, and physical and mental status, as well as culture, have an influence on active ageing. According to WHO, active ageing is the process of optimising opportunities for health, participation and security in order to enhance quality of life as people grow older, which requires supportive and age-friendly environments. Active ageing programme policies focus on more people actively participating in society and enjoying a good quality of life as they grow older (WHO 2002).

One important factor in active ageing could be engagement in meaningful activities chosen by the individual, doing what he or she wants, for example pursuing interests. For the purpose of this paper, interests are understood as activities for pleasure and satisfaction as defined by the participants and categorised according to the manual of the Canadian Occupational Performance Measure (COPM) (Law et al 2005).

Occupation, a broader concept than just interests, refers to activities of daily living, encompassing self-care, enjoying life (leisure) and contributing to the community (productivity), all of which give meaning to life and appear to be important determinants of health. Occupational performance is the dynamic relationship between persons, meaningful activities and the environment, a complex process in which people fulfil needs and purposes. Leisure, one important area of occupational performance, encompasses occupations for enjoyment (Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists 2002) and contributes to the individual's shaping of his or her social and personal identity (Taylor 2003). However, according to the Canadian Model of Occupational Performance (CMOP), interests are not limited to the leisure area but could be defined in all occupational areas; for example, housework is included in the productivity area (Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists 2002).

Literature review

There is a great deal of research exploring the relationship between occupation and health, but knowledge of the ways in which occupation influences health is limited (Creek and Hughes 2008). Although the concepts explored differ between different studies, being active seems to be the common denominator and this is an area of concern in occupational therapy. Engaging in leisure activities can lead to health benefits, such as disease prevention and decreased risk of dementia, since stimulating activities involving mental or psychosocial components may act as stimuli that help preserve cognition or hinder cognitive decline (Wang et al 2002). A study of 86-year-old people (Haggblom-Kronlof and Sonn 2005) revealed that they had a broad interest repertoire, where media and individual leisure interests were the most common. The authors concluded that active participation in many interests means experiencing good health and no or few problems in daily life activities. Occupation can also involve health risks, such as pain or injury (Creek and Hughes 2008).

Participating in leisure activities reduces the mortality risk, with the strongest effects derived from social activities among women and solitary activities among men (Agahi and Parker 2008). Health and wellbeing increase when people engage in activities (Townsend and Polatajko 2007), while remaining active and ensuring good nutrition are important factors for successful ageing (Bassett et al 2007). Factors that cause people to give up their interests could be personal (lack of capacity or motivation) and/or environmental (Haggblom-Kronlof and Sonn 2005). Nilsson et al (2007) found a significant but low correlation between life satisfaction and engagement in both leisure and activities of daily living, with leisure being the stronger factor in relation to life satisfaction. …

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