The Meaning of Being Aged: A Story of Everyday Occupations

Wright-St Clair, VA
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Conference Contribution
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New Zealand Association of Occupational Therapists (NZAOT)

“Everyday occupations tend to be ‘seen but unnoticed’” (Hasselkus, 2006, p. 628). Hence, occupational therapy’s inspiration is in its focus on peoples’ engagement in the ordinary everyday. In working with older people, enabling participation in everyday occupations is at the heart of practice (Dahlin-Ivanoff, Haak, Fange, & Iwarsson, 2007). For this reason occupational therapists offer a unique contribution to older peoples’ health and wellness in New Zealand society. Occupational therapy’s contribution is about making a difference in peoples’ sense of purpose and enjoyment in the everyday, and in building and maintaining capacities for participation (Rudman, 2006). Knowing something of the meaning of being aged opens up new horizons of understanding and the thinking which inspires practice. This poster presents an occupationally-focused view of a recent phenomenological study of elder’s experience of aging. The poster brings forward the voices of the 4 Maori and 11 non-Maori community-dwelling participants who were aged between 71 and 97 years. In the talk about their ordinary experiences these elders reveal a central story about the importance of everyday occupations. The splendour of these everyday stories is in their taken-for-granted simplicity. Yet behind the words are the many complex layers showing the importance of having a purpose, having a routine and rhythm of doing, having things to do, having at least one strong occupational interest and having the past as part of the everyday. Practice is inspired through listening in the direction of what lies behind everyday stories.

Poster presentation at the New Zealand Association of Occupational Therapists' (NZAOT) Conference, Palmerston North, New Zealand
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