We use cookies on our website to provide you with the best possible user experience. Disabling these cookies may prevent our site from working efficiently. To find out more about our cookies read our privacy policy.

Occupation and older people's mental health

Research Programme for Occupation and Older People’s Mental Health

This research programme aims contribute to RCOMH’s mission by:

  • providing leadership in research related to occupation and older people’s mental health;
  • engaging in a programme with a global perspective, drawing on existing links staff at York St John University have with colleagues in  Europe and internationally;
  • facilitating empowerment of older people and their care-givers in order to actively participate in this research programme;
  • developing, facilitating and leading a co-ordinated programme of research involving multi-centred, multi-disciplinary studies that explore the relationship between occupation and older people’s mental health.


Overall Aims of the Programme

  • to engage in a co-ordinated programme of collaborative research, involving multi-centred, multi-disciplinary studies that explore the key areas of research;
  • to facilitate communication and collaboration between researchers (academics, practitioners, students and users) who share interest and/or expertise in the areas of occupation, older people and mental health, in order to develop effective research proposals and bids;
  • to build research capacity at all levels in order to ensure a sustainable programme of research.


The scope of this programme has the potential to be very broad and was originally outlined at a A ‘Think Tank’ meeting in May 2009 following e-mail dialogues between colleagues in the UK who are working on research in this areas and possible areas of research and research questions were identified. These are:

1. Social inclusion, occupational engagement and mental health

Housing related: age segregated settings (e.g. nursing homes, residential homes, extra care housing, warden supported accommodation)


  • Do frail people placed in settings where majority of residents are reasonably independent, become socially isolated as they do not access meaningful occupations within the housing; and how does this affect their mental health?
  • How can we increase the social inclusion and occupational engagement for older people living in age segregated settings?
  • How do we evaluate the effects of intervention on mental health? Who benefits? Costs and to which stakeholders?
  • What are the barriers to social inclusion and occupational engagement (time, budgets, training)?

Stigma: the impact of stigma on occupational engagement and mental health


  • What is the relationship between stigma related to dementia and mental health problems and a person’s occupational engagement and social inclusion?
  • If stigma is reduced, does this lead to increased occupational engagement and increased mental health?
  • What is the relationship between a person’s experience of stigma and their well-being?
  • How do people with dementia seek meaning to meet occupational engagement needs? - Embodiment in relation to ‘doing activities’ in people with dementia (e.g. walking, eating)
  • What are the links between occupational engagement, communication and mental health?

Capacity and deprivation of liberty:


  • How do we ensure people’s best interests are addressed to meet their occupational engagement and mental health needs when there are issues of deprivation of liberty and mental capacity?

Occupational engagement of people with dementia in community settings


  • In relation to research around the Activity Matters programme and the work of Graff (Netherlands; also a similar study being undertaken in Germany)


2. Mental health problems secondary to physical disability and / or sensory impairment


  • What is the relationship between physical disability, occupational engagement and mental health in older people?


3. Older people and Spirituality


  • What are the effects of interventions (e.g. buddy system) to support re-engagement in a faith community upon the mental health of older people?
  • How do we assess and meet the spiritual needs of older people with mental health problems?
  • To evaluate the links between engagement in meaningful occupation and spirituality.
  • Would a training programme for health professionals in spirituality enable the needs to be met?
  • How do we support meaningful occupation in end of life care? What is the impact of meeting spiritual needs on mental health and end of life care?


4.    Evaluation and Assessment of Occupational Engagement


  • How do we robustly assess and measure levels of occupational engagement in older people for the purposes of research?
  • The development of a dynamic assessment process to identify zones of proximal development in people with dementia
  • How do we intervene within the zone of proximal development to maximise the occupational engagement and mental well-being of people with dementia?
  • The use of technology and telecare and their potential to enable occupational performance and improve mental health in older people.


For further information and / or become involved in the work of this research programme please contact Alison Laver-Fawcett E:a.laverfawcett@yorksj.ac.uk