Being occupied with what matters in advanced age
Wright-St Clair, VA
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This article illuminates one key finding of an interpretive phenomenological study that brought an occupational lens to exploring how elders experience ageing in their everyday lives. Fifteen community-dwelling, New Zealand elders aged 71 to 97, 4 Maori and 11 non-Maori, were purposively recruited. Data were gathered through individual interviews focused on stories of everyday moments and photographs of the participant’s hands only while engaged in doing a chosen occupation. Discrete stories were drawn from the narrative data and interpreted, guided by Gadamerian hermeneutics and Heideggerian phenomenology. The notion of ‘doing what matters’ emerged as participants spoke of having one occupation that was of primary importance to them. This one compelling pursuit showed as an enduring interest over time, illuminating the temporal unity of past, present and future in advanced age. Accordingly, the boundaries of researching occupational engagement in advanced age ought to be redefined. Instead of a current emphasis on understanding elders’ participation in daily activities, activity categories and patterns, occupational science research might deepen the focus to understand how engagement in subjectively compelling occupations is associated with ageing well and longevity.