Title

Layered purposes of participation: What mapping methods can teach us about occupation

Location

New River Room A

Start Time

2-10-2015 9:00 AM

End Time

2-10-2015 11:00 AM

Session Type

Research Paper

Abstract

Purpose. The concept of ‘community livability’—or how well a community enables the necessary and chosen activities of daily life—is increasingly used but not well studied or understood. Livability has most often been conceptualized as a collection of features of the environment. Literature about aging in community also tends to conceptualize older adults as aging and engaging “in” a relatively static environment. The purpose of this research was to theorize key dynamics of livability for older adults who are aging in place in their homes and communities through a focus on occupations, or the ‘doings’ of everyday life.

Method. Twelve community-dwelling older adults (70+) were purposively selected for diversity of experience, socioeconomic level, and living situation in a multiple-case study design. Global positioning (GPS) devices were used to collect spatial data including participants’ location, routine, routes, and duration of activity over two weeks. Interviews and naturalistic observations were additionally used to understand how participants navigated physical, social, and cultural spaces through which community participation occurred. A grounded theory approach to analysis involved using the different types of data for constant comparison and cross-interrogation, fostering a deeper understanding of the participants’ occupations and experiences.

Results. Findings from this study include patterns of participation in occupation that vary by personal and residential factors, and processes of navigating the social and physical dynamics of a community. Both patterns and process of navigation suggest ‘livability’ is negotiated in a particular socio-historical context. Findings from the GPS mapping were particularly useful in revealing aspects of participation-in-community that were tacit or taken for granted by participants, as well as geographic and historic dimensions of the community that influenced daily occupation.

Discussion. Three implications of these findings will be discussed. First, the use of GPS to create maps offers a novel visual methodology for studying occupation. Possible benefits, challenges, and the broader utility of mapping methods will be discussed. Second, the historical precedent of sorting occupation into categories (e.g. work, leisure) is inconsistent with the complex layering of occupations and purposes that were revealed in the mapping data. Occupational scientists need to move toward ways of describing occupations and occupational patterns that do not rely on categorical reductionism. Finally, these findings challenge existing frameworks of livability. Through foregrounding occupation, livability (and the related policy) can be better conceptualized and supported as active, negotiated, and emerging processes. Occupational science has much to contribute to the national conversation about increasing the livability of communities for older adults and other populations.

References

Hammell, K.W. (2009). Self-care, productivity, and leisure, or dimensions of occupational experience? Rethinking occupational “categories.” Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy, 76, 107-114.

Hirshorn, B., & Stewart, J. (2003). Geographic information systems in community-based gerontological research and practice. Journal of Applied Gerontology, 22, 134-151.

Huot, S., & Laliberte Rudman, D. (in press). Extending beyond qualitative interview to illuminate the tacit nature of everyday occupation: Occupational mapping and participatory occupation methods. Occupational Therapy Journal of Research.

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Oct 2nd, 9:00 AM Oct 2nd, 11:00 AM

Layered purposes of participation: What mapping methods can teach us about occupation

New River Room A

Purpose. The concept of ‘community livability’—or how well a community enables the necessary and chosen activities of daily life—is increasingly used but not well studied or understood. Livability has most often been conceptualized as a collection of features of the environment. Literature about aging in community also tends to conceptualize older adults as aging and engaging “in” a relatively static environment. The purpose of this research was to theorize key dynamics of livability for older adults who are aging in place in their homes and communities through a focus on occupations, or the ‘doings’ of everyday life.

Method. Twelve community-dwelling older adults (70+) were purposively selected for diversity of experience, socioeconomic level, and living situation in a multiple-case study design. Global positioning (GPS) devices were used to collect spatial data including participants’ location, routine, routes, and duration of activity over two weeks. Interviews and naturalistic observations were additionally used to understand how participants navigated physical, social, and cultural spaces through which community participation occurred. A grounded theory approach to analysis involved using the different types of data for constant comparison and cross-interrogation, fostering a deeper understanding of the participants’ occupations and experiences.

Results. Findings from this study include patterns of participation in occupation that vary by personal and residential factors, and processes of navigating the social and physical dynamics of a community. Both patterns and process of navigation suggest ‘livability’ is negotiated in a particular socio-historical context. Findings from the GPS mapping were particularly useful in revealing aspects of participation-in-community that were tacit or taken for granted by participants, as well as geographic and historic dimensions of the community that influenced daily occupation.

Discussion. Three implications of these findings will be discussed. First, the use of GPS to create maps offers a novel visual methodology for studying occupation. Possible benefits, challenges, and the broader utility of mapping methods will be discussed. Second, the historical precedent of sorting occupation into categories (e.g. work, leisure) is inconsistent with the complex layering of occupations and purposes that were revealed in the mapping data. Occupational scientists need to move toward ways of describing occupations and occupational patterns that do not rely on categorical reductionism. Finally, these findings challenge existing frameworks of livability. Through foregrounding occupation, livability (and the related policy) can be better conceptualized and supported as active, negotiated, and emerging processes. Occupational science has much to contribute to the national conversation about increasing the livability of communities for older adults and other populations.