Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Occupational balance in the 'Third Age': A conceptual model

Hall, Elaine

Occupational balance in the 'Third Age': A conceptual model Thumbnail



Introduction: This is a qualitative study, using a constructivist grounded theory approach. It considers what active older people do with their time and why; and what influences their engagement in particular activities.
Methods: Fourteen active older people, in the ‘third age’, completed diaries for up to 14 days, looking at what they did, and their thoughts and reflections on this. The inclusion criteria for the study was that they be retired from their job/career and consider themselves to be independent in their daily life activities. The data was analysed using a constant comparative approach advocated in grounded theory analysis, producing a detailed exploration of the diarists’ engagement and motivations, further analysis and memoing leading to a grounded theory modelling of occupational balance for active older people
Results: Of the fourteen diarists, eleven completed the full 14 days, with three completing 7 days of the study. The diarists’ ages ranged from 60 to 94, with seven in the 60-69 age range and seven in the 70+ age range. In total 175 diary sheets and 156 in-depth reflective sheets were completed, giving 331 documents for analysis.
Six themes emerged from the data, which were interconnected and overlapping, these were: Social Participation and Sociability, Elements of Doing, Contexts for Doing, Influences on Engagement in Doing, Elements of Planning Pacing and Pausing; and Continuity and Belonging. Looking at these as a gestalt enabled the theorising of a concept model of occupational balance in the third age. This model states that Occupational Balance is a multifaceted concept, which requires the subjective evaluation of their own occupational pattern by an individual, to consider whether the occupational experiences engaged in, as a panorama, provide a state of favourable balance of certain properties on a set of continuums, relating to meaning and motivations as well as actual engagement. Occupational Balance is dynamical; with all continuums in a state of possible flux across time. For people in the third age, it is proposed that these properties are: social relatedness; enjoyment; autonomy; planning of occupational pattern; physical activity; challenge; competence; and life-tense perspective.
Conclusion: This is a new way to consider occupational balance, and its properties, for active older people. The model reflects that balance is a multifaceted concept, including the meanings and motivations for engagement as well as actual doing. The consideration of occupational balance as dynamical; with all continuums in a state of possible flux across time, where the continuums are not from positive to negative, has not been previously considered. This model has implications for occupational therapy practice in the health promotion arena, where further research is needed into its possible use as therapeutic tool


Hall, E. Occupational balance in the 'Third Age': A conceptual model. (Thesis). University of the West of England. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Jan 17, 2019
Publicly Available Date Jan 17, 2019
Keywords occupational balance, occupation, reflective diary, active older people
Public URL
Award Date Jan 17, 2019


Downloadable Citations