Enhancing Older Adults’ Wellbeing and Quality of Life through Purposeful Activity: A Systematic Review of Intervention Studies

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Background and Objectives: Population aging represents a significant challenge for health and social care services. Older adults who engage in activities that offer a sense of purpose have significantly better physical and psychological health outcomes. However, age-related functional limitations and losses of social roles can present barriers to engaging in purposeful activity, especially for those older adults within the ‘oldest old’ age range (i.e. 80 years and over). This review aimed to determine the nature and effectiveness of purposeful activity interventions in older adults, aged ≥80 years, with respect to wellbeing and quality of life outcomes.
Research Design and Methods: Three databases were searched from their inception to April 2020. The search yielded 8,916 records, which resulted in eight eligible studies.
Results: The interventions were divided into two groups: (1) interventions that gave participants a specific functional role, such as volunteer or mentor (n=5); (2) interventions that supported participants to develop a new skill (n=3). The quality of the evidence was variable. The strongest evidence was for interventions that assigned a functional role, which appeared to be somewhat effective in improving wellbeing outcomes.
Discussion and Implications: There is preliminary evidence that purposeful activity interventions, particularly those that involved taking on a functional role, can improve wellbeing and quality of life outcomes in older adults aged 80 years and over. These findings have implications for professionals and carers to support older adults to access more purposeful social roles, and create opportunities for helping and reciprocation.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
JournalThe Gerontologist
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 15 Jan 2021