About meaningful lifestyle activities

What are meaningful lifestyle activities?

In residential aged care, meaningful lifestyle activities are recognised as activities that are enjoyable and engage older adults to an extent where they experience benefits in emotional wellbeing, cognitive status, and physical functioning. [1] Despite the benefit of both physical and social participation, residents have been found to spend over 45 percent of their day alone in their own room. [2] Identifying meaningful lifestyle activities is often complex, as these activities will be unique to an individual’s preferences as well as their past, present, and future. [3] Older adults who live at home can also find it difficult to participate in meaningful activities and rely on home-care services for support. [4] Providing opportunities for older adults to participate in activities they deem meaningful is important to support ongoing independence and dignity, to maintain good health, wellbeing, and quality of life, and to increase feelings of happiness as they age. [5-8] Therefore, it is important that activities are meaningful to the individual, have a purpose, and respect the differences and abilities of each person receiving aged care. Older adults will often engage with activities that are suited to their abilities and linked to their identity, goals, and interests. An overview of these concepts is presented visually in Figure 1. [8]

Meaningful activities for older adults living with dementia model

Source: Tierney L, Beattie E. Enjoyable, engaging and individualised: A concept analysis of meaningful activity for older adults with dementia. Int J Older People Nurs. 2020 Jun;15(2):e12306. doi: 10.1111/opn.12306. Reproduced by permission of John Wiley and Sons.

Who determines what a ‘meaningful’ activity is? 

Each adult engaged with aged care is an individual with a unique identity and history, and their own personal preferences. So, no one activity will have appeal to everyone.  Bingo is an activity often provided in aged care that, although meaningful to some who find it enjoyable, will have no meaning for many others. These people are unlikely to be motivated to participate. Identifying what is meaningful to individual older when planning activities within an aged care setting is therefore reliant on staff taking the time to get to know each person. This requires a , one-on-one investment of time. [9] 

Barriers to meaningful lifestyle activities

Despite the benefits of participation for older adults, the integration of meaningful lifestyle activities into aged care is often met with challenges. These include:
•    Safety concerns (including falls risks)
•    Staff availability and time restraints
•    Lack of time to identify and provide one-on-one personalised activities.  
•    Inadequate facilities or spaces available to carry out activities
•    The design and condition of outdoor areas and their accessibility to all people in aged care. 

Evidence limitations

For our evidence reviews, we identified evidence that may support the integration of meaningful lifestyle activities into aged care. However, informed commentary from our Evidence Advisory Group suggests that recurrent themes reported in the literature may not reflect real life priorities and practices. We therefore recommend the need for a systematic review aimed at determining the components of activities, rather than specific activities, that make them personally meaningful and engaging to older people. 

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  2. Siette J, Dodds L, Surian D, Prgomet M, Dunn A, Westbrook J. Social interactions and quality of life of residents in aged care facilities: A multi-methods study. PLoS ONE. 2022;17(8):e0273412.
  3. Du Toit SHJ, Shen X, McGrath M. Meaningful engagement and person-centered residential dementia care: A critical interpretive synthesis. Scand J Occup Ther. 2019;26(5):343-55.
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  5. Groenendaal M, Smaling HJA, Achterberg WP, Caljouw MAA. Maintaining meaningful activities for persons with dementia during transitions of care: A systematic review. Geriatr Nurs. 2022;44:176-83.
  6. Howarth M, Brettle A, Hardman M, Maden M. What is the evidence for the impact of gardens and gardening on health and well-being: A scoping review and evidence-based logic model to guide healthcare strategy decision making on the use of gardening approaches as a social prescription. BMJ Open. 2020;10(7):e036923.
  7. Gagliardi C, Piccinini F. The use of nature - based activities for the well-being of older people: An integrative literature review. Arch Gerontol Geriatr. 2019;83:315-27.
  8. Tierney L, Beattie E. Enjoyable, engaging and individualised: A concept analysis of meaningful activity for older adults with dementia. Int J Older People Nurs. 2020;15(2):e12306-n/a.
  9. Mohler R, Renom A, Renom H, Meyer G. Personally tailored activities for improving psychosocial outcomes for people with dementia in long-term care. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2018;2:CD009812