This qualitative study for Age UK examines the impact of a range of activities on the mental health and well-being of older homeless people. The report of the findings from this research initiated a small grants programme to support work in this area.

Aims

The aim of this qualitative study was to examine the impact of activity on the mental health and well-being of older homeless people.

Methods

Outcomes for service users were examined from a range of structured group activities including physical activity and exercise, social, leisure and educational activities delivered by two homelessness organisations in London. The study used both quantitative and qualitative methods including structured questionnaires and semi-structured interviews with service users and frontline workers.

Findings

Participation in meaningful activity promoted health and well-being, helped alleviate social isolation, increased social skills, improved motivation and increased uptake of services. The mechanisms underlying the therapeutic effects of activity concerned the type and characteristics of the activity and the dynamics of group interaction.

Impact

The research was influential in the work of a national lobby group, the UK Coalition on Older Homelessness, whose membership included over 100 agencies in the UK, leading academics in the homelessness field and the Department of Health. This research underpinned the Coalition’s campaign themes. The report of findings from this research initiated a small grants programme to support work in this area (by Help the Aged, alongside Homeless Link).

Reports

Willcock, K. (2006) Moving On: the meaning of activity for older homeless people. London: Help the Aged. ISBN: 1-84598-010-7

Reviewed in: Windle, G. et , Hughes, D., Linck, P., Morgan, R., Burholt, V., Tudor Edwards, R., Reeves, C., Tien Yeo, S., Woods, R. and Russell, I (2007). Public health interventions to promote mental well-being in people aged 65 and over: systematic review of effectiveness and cost-effectiveness. University of Wales Bangor. Supporting document for NICE public health guidance 16 (2008), Occupational therapy and physical activity interventions to promote the mental wellbeing of older people in primary care and residential care. [The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE)].

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