Understanding the role of occupation in ageing: four life stories of older Viennese women

Verena C. Tatzer, Fenna Van Nes, Hans Jonsson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleAcademicpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


This article presents the life stories of four older women in Vienna in order to better understand the role of occupation in the course of ageing. A qualitative life-story method in the narrative tradition was used as a design of this multiple case study. The stories presented extend beyond an illness or deficit narrative and contribute to a more multifaceted narrative of the subjective experience of ageing in occupational terms in connection with identity. The women did not perceive themselves as old or sick despite problems in mobility, the presence of chronic disease and advanced age. This was associated with their engagement in occupation that was meaningful and linked to their identity. Engaging occupation is the means to continue, test, and adapt to the ageing self. Because occupation is like a litmus-test of one's identity and capacities, the women used it as a measure of change while ageing. Using Atchley's continuity theory, the attempt of the four older women to maintain a balance between adapting and struggling to continue their occupations is discussed in relation to their identity. The results expand Atchley's continuity theory by adding an occupational perspective.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)138-149
JournalJournal of Occupational Science
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2012


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