Title

Life in an Assisted Living Center: An Ethnography of Place and Occupational Experience

Presenter Information

Elicia Dunn Cruz

Start Time

16-10-2002 12:00 AM

End Time

18-10-2002 12:00 AM

Abstract

Within occupational therapy and its science there exists a solid body of knowledge about the relationship between person and occupation. Our knowledge about the role of context in this relationship, however, has begun to evolve more recently. The concept of place, which originated in the discipline of geography, has the potential to enhance our understanding of the function of the context in person-context-occupation interactions. This paper describes an ethnography through which elders' experience of place within an assisted living center (ALC) was explored. Participant observations of residents' daily lives were conducted two to five times weekly over four months. The paper first characterizes the ALC at the level of the residential group. At this group level the world was distinguished by general overarching features. It had a unique milieu with distinct sociocultural and temporal-occupational natures that emerged from the elders' place and occupational experiences over time. Within this broad world existed three discrete groups of residents that comprised three small local worlds, or situations, that were distinguished by their own cultures, configurations of occupational forms, and ways of dealing with day to day challenges. The paper briefly describes these local worlds and the personal and group projects in which residents engaged in an effort to adapt, that is, to transform their situations into what they ought to be. Finally, the paper argues that understanding the residents in terms of their situations, which emerged from the integration of place and occupational experience over time, offers a rich way to comprehend people's experience of and adaptive efforts within their life worlds.

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Life in an Assisted Living Center: An Ethnography of Place and Occupational Experience

Within occupational therapy and its science there exists a solid body of knowledge about the relationship between person and occupation. Our knowledge about the role of context in this relationship, however, has begun to evolve more recently. The concept of place, which originated in the discipline of geography, has the potential to enhance our understanding of the function of the context in person-context-occupation interactions. This paper describes an ethnography through which elders' experience of place within an assisted living center (ALC) was explored. Participant observations of residents' daily lives were conducted two to five times weekly over four months. The paper first characterizes the ALC at the level of the residential group. At this group level the world was distinguished by general overarching features. It had a unique milieu with distinct sociocultural and temporal-occupational natures that emerged from the elders' place and occupational experiences over time. Within this broad world existed three discrete groups of residents that comprised three small local worlds, or situations, that were distinguished by their own cultures, configurations of occupational forms, and ways of dealing with day to day challenges. The paper briefly describes these local worlds and the personal and group projects in which residents engaged in an effort to adapt, that is, to transform their situations into what they ought to be. Finally, the paper argues that understanding the residents in terms of their situations, which emerged from the integration of place and occupational experience over time, offers a rich way to comprehend people's experience of and adaptive efforts within their life worlds.