The influence of occupation on wellbeing, as experienced by the elderly: a systematic review

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Abstract

Objective:

The objective of this review was to synthesize knowledge regarding which types of occupations the elderly perceive as important to and supporting their overall wellbeing.

Introduction:

Being active is an important part of managing the daily challenges of advanced old age. Occupational therapy and occupational science are based on the premise that a person's occupations are intertwined with their health and are thus needed for them to experience a meaningful life and improve their wellbeing.

Inclusion criteria:

This review, which included independently living elderly people aged 65 and over living in Europe, the USA, Canada and Australia, sought to uncover if the elderly see any specific types of occupations as enhancing their wellbeing. This review included qualitative studies with designs including, but not limited to, phenomenology, grounded theory, ethnography and action research.

Methods:

A three-step search strategy using Joanna Briggs Institute methodology was utilized. Both published and unpublished studies were searched. The following databases were searched for studies up to 2017: CINAHL, Nursing and Allied Health Source, Web of Science, PubMed and OpenGrey. Using the JBI Critical Appraisal Checklist for Qualitative Research, two independent reviewers assessed whether each study had the methodological quality required to be included in the review. Any disagreements were resolved through discussion with a third reviewer. The standardized JBI data extraction tool for interpretive and critical research was used to extract data from the included studies. JBI tools were used to pool the qualitative research findings. The findings were then aggregated through a process of rating according to quality, and categorized according to similarity in meaning, which generated a set of statements for each category. These categories were then subjected to a meta-synthesis to produce a single comprehensive set of synthesized findings useful as a basis for evidence-based practice.

Results:

All three of the included studies utilized qualitative interviews and followed a phenomenological approach. The studies included only participants aged 85 and over. Thirty-five findings were extracted and grouped into four categories, which were synthesized into two meta-syntheses: 1) The importance of “doing” alone – to feel good, I have to be the master of my own life; and 2) Old habits never die – a structured day is a good day. Based on the dependability and credibility of the three studies, the ranking was high (see Summary of Findings).

Conclusions:

The present review shows that two factors enhance elderly people's wellbeing: first, variation and independence in undertaking activities; second, having a choice between the occupations and a structure of activities that make up daily life. The two factors are influenced by a balance between having activities alone and with others. This review is not intended to identify specific occupations that enhance elderly people's wellbeing, but rather to indicate which types of occupations enhance the wellbeing of the elderly, and provide value and meaning to their daily lives.

Conclusions:

Both the dependability and the credibility of the studies have been rated as moderate.

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