AN EXPLORATION OF SLOVENIAN OLDER PEOPLE’S OCCUPATIONS AND THE INFLUENCE OF TRANSITION INTO A CARE HOME ON THEIR OCCUPATIONAL ENGAGEMENT
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This research explored older Slovenians’ occupations, including the ways in which the transition into a care home influenced their occupational engagement. The research encompassed three stages. Stage 1 investigated Slovenian older people’s individual experiences of occupational engagement, with a particular emphasis on their personally meaningful occupations. Stage 2 aimed to enhance understanding of the impact of transition into a care home on older Slovenians’ meaningful occupations. Finally, Stage 3 sought to provide an insight into older people’s occupational engagement in one Slovenian care home.
The first two stages of this research took a phenomenological approach; focusing on the participants’ individual experiences of occupational engagement; using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) to approach and analyse the data. Ten older adults were interviewed in Stage 1 and six older adults were interviewed in Stage 2 at three time points: before the relocation into a care home, one month after and six months after the relocation. The final stage was ethnographic in nature; exploring occupational engagement among Slovenian care home residents as a culture-sharing group; using observations for collecting the data and analysing the resulting field notes using Thematic Analysis.
The findings consistently highlighted the significance of occupations and routines in participants’ everyday lives as important parts of their identities. The first two stages highlighted the importance of a continuous experience of meaning in occupation, across participants’ lives and throughout their transition into a care home. Some of these meanings were specific to Slovenian socio-cultural, historic and geographical context. The participants especially valued productive occupations such as gardening, family-related occupations such as looking after and passing knowledge to younger generations and occupations related to particular places, such as spending time at their weekend cottages and home surroundings, walking familiar pathways or hiking Slovenian mountains. These Slovenian older adults purposefully engaged in health-promoting occupations in order to maintain their health, in turn influencing their occupational engagement. Since their everyday routines were related to particular places, Stages 2 and 3 highlighted that some of these occupations were disrupted by their new living environment. The care home residents managed this situation by trying to maintain their engagement in occupations that they perceived personally meaningful and enjoyable.
This research is foundational in the Slovenian context, with the findings also being transferrable to individuals and contexts outside Slovenia. From exploring the impact of older people’s living environments on their meaningful occupational engagement, the findings contribute original knowledge to occupational science regarding the link between occupation, place, identity and the transactional perspective of occupation. This indicates the need to develop further therapeutic programmes and services for older people making the transition to care home living.
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