What is meaningful activity for people with dementia living in care homes? A comparison of the views of older people with dementia, staff and family carers

Aging Ment Health. 2008 Sep;12(5):548-58. doi: 10.1080/13607860802343019.


Background: Older people with dementia living in care homes often lack appropriate activities. Although homes are expected to offer a range of activities to meet residents' needs, little is known about what makes activities meaningful for people with dementia. This study explores concepts of meaningful activity, as defined by older people with dementia living in care homes, staff and family carers.

Method: This qualitative study used focus groups including 17 residents, 15 staff and eight family carers from three care homes. Transcripts of the groups were subjected to thematic content analysis using a grounded theory approach.

Results: Four activity themes emerged -- 'reminiscence', 'family and social', 'musical' and 'individual'. There were also two related themes -- 'lack of meaningful activity' and 'what makes activity meaningful'. Residents found meaning in activities that addressed their psychological and social needs, which related to the quality of the experience of an activity rather than specific types of activities. In contrast, staff and family carers viewed activities that maintained physical abilities as meaningful.

Conclusion: People with dementia staff and carers had differing views about what made activities meaningful. Organisational limitations and social beliefs limited the provision of meaningful activities for this population. The study also indicates areas for improving activity provision in care homes.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Caregivers*
  • Dementia / nursing*
  • Dementia / rehabilitation
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Leisure Activities*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nursing Staff*
  • Residential Facilities*