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Planned activities provide older people with better health

Published: 7 May 2015

Being put to bed at seven o'clock in the evening, as a night person, is not not always good for the health, according to researcher Cecilia Björklund. However, to look forward to a visit in the summer house in the spring can promote older peoples health.

– I am interested in how series of activities can promote health for older people. I believe that the elderly care can benefit from the results of my research.

Cecilia Björklund has recently defended her thesis in the subject occupational therapy at Luleå University of Technology. She has studied how series of activities can promote health and wellbeing of older people, over a day and over a year.

Personal time rhythm

One of the studies included 151 elderly people, who kept a diary of their activities. A pattern of six intervals became clear during the day. The morning interval ranged from 8-12.00 p.m., after which lunch-, afternoon-, dinner/tea-time-, evening- and night interval followed. According to the study, this activity pattern over one day does not differ so much from the pattern showed for employed people. It was only the transitions to and from the night interval that had a gradual shift of approximately three hours. The night interval is probably influenced by the biological personal time-rhythm, while other intervals may be influenced by time imposed by the environment.

– For example, it may effect health negatively if a night person have to go to bed early in the evening. If there is disease involved, there are of course different premises applied, says Cecilia Björklund.

Activities for good health

She also viewed the duration of the different activities and saw that the longest time during the day was spend on personal care, followed by reflection and recreation, home-keeping and maintenance, purchasing and cooking, and on transportation within the community. The aim was to identify the characteristics that may be related for high and low health.

– I saw a tendency that those who were physically active spend more time in home-keeping and maintenance, cooking and transportation within the community and less on personal care, reflection and recreation activities, than the group who had low health.

Important core projects

Cecilia Björklund also studied the activities that elderly people considered important to promote health during a whole year. Eleven elderly persons in good health described five core projects of great importance. These projects were to keep the family together, to enjoy life in the home, being close to nature, self-development and to promote healthy aging.

– It is important to have something to look forward to throughout the year. It can be activities, such as going to the summer house in the spring or picking mushrooms in autumn.

Some strategies are to make a daily routine that suits a morning or evening person, which makes it possible to participate in fellow citizens and society activities.
Make a long-term planning for activities that promote good contact with relatives, being outdoors and engage in leisure activities, but also participate in activities that will help other people who have impaired health. The proceeds of being of use to others may also promote their own health, says Cecilia Björklund.

Photo: Åsa Eriksson

– I hope that activity planners in the elderly care take into account the core projects in my research and that older people may continue these activities to promote their health.

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Cecilia Björklund

Cecilia Björklund, Senior Lecturer

Phone: +46 (0)920 493889
Organisation: Occupational therapy, Division of Health, Medicine and Rehabilitation, Department of Health Sciences