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Exploring Older Adults' Occupational Engagement in Alternative Housing

        

               Cohousing community in Sweden                                                          Shared house in Canada           

       (pictures courtesy of Kerstin Kärnekull)                 

                                         

Investigators: 

Supervisor: Barry Trentham

Student MScOT Researchers: Alana Guy and Rosalind Pfaff

Year of study:

2017/18

Description: 

Given demographic trends and the identified limitations of current housing options for Canadian older adults, new models are needed for this diverse population. Alternative ways of living like cohousing and shared housing, more common in Europe, are emerging in Canada.

The purpose of this cross-cultural case study was to explore the relationship between the home environment and occupational engagement for older adults using a Swedish cohousing community and a Canadian shared home. Our primary research question was: how do older adults living in cohousing and shared housing perceive their occupational engagement?

We interviewed eight of fifty-five residents in the Swedish cohousing community and all four Canadian residents in the shared house. We also observed group activities and informal socializing at both sites and analyzed house website material, newspaper articles and government reports from both countries on senior housing and homecare.

The key findings from this study were:

  • Occupational development continues in later life and flourishes in supportive, new home environments
  • Meaningful occupational engagement at home for older adults is rooted in choice and achieves a balance between individual occupations and the group occupations that promote social contact and shared responsibilities.
  • Shared housing and cohousing are two different approaches to “aging-in-community” that deserve consideration for future senior housing in Canada either in existing forms or by applying their key principles to more traditional housing

Findings from this project were presented at the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists (CAOT) 2018 Annual Conference in Vancouver.

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