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Title: Food activities and the maintenance of identity in later life
Author: Plastow, Nicola Ann
ISNI:       0000 0004 5948 8338
Awarding Body: Brunel University
Current Institution: Brunel University
Date of Award: 2014
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Background: Participating in meaningful activities, and maintaining identity, are each embedded within best practice guidelines to improve mental well-being among older adults in the United Kingdom. Food plays a part in many meaningful activities that are important to health and wellbeing. Although there is moderate evidence that participating in food activities contributes to identity maintenance and change, only six studies include British older adults. Aim: To explore the relationship between food activities and identity maintenance among community-living older adults in West London. Methods: A concurrent mixed-methods design from a pragmatist perspective was used. Data collection included semi-structured interviews with 39 older adults (60 to 89 years). Qualitative data were analysed using grounded theory methods. Quantitative methods were used to investigate the relationship between demographic data, transformed qualitative data, and the Occupational Performance Measure of Food Activities. Q methodology data were analysed using centroid factor estimation and interpretation, and triangulated with the qualitative and quantitative components using qualitative matrix analysis and quantitative methods. Findings: This study found three predominant past and present identities as ‘food-lover’, ‘non-foodie’ and ‘not bothered’. These food identities are defined as a composite sense of who one is, derived from one’s experience of participating in food activities. Maintenance of food identities was explained in the processes of ‘Participation and maintenance’, ‘Threat and compensation’, and ‘Changes in meaning and identity’. These processes varied according to the importance and meaning of food activities for each participant. There was no consistent relationship between maintenance or change in food identities, and participants’ hoped-for, feared and expected possible selves. Conclusions: Participation in food activities maintains older adults’ important identities and mental wellbeing when food activities are an important and pleasurable part of daily life. Nevertheless, older adults whose food activities and identities change continue to experience mental well-being in later life.
Supervisor: Gilhooly, M.; Atwal, A. Sponsor: Geriatrics Society ; Dunhill Medical Trust Research Fellowship
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Ageing ; Mental well-being ; Nutrition ; Occupational therapy