The ageing process has been the subject of much debate and discussion across a range of different disciplines. Sociologists, gerontologists, psychologists and others devoted to its study have grappled with questions relating to factors that enable people to age well. Whilst at one level ageing is a natural biological process the question remains as to the role that the broader environment plays as well as to factors such as personality, outlook, biography and broader coping mechanisms that can mitigate or shape the ageing process.
Models of approaches that focus on older people as valuable assets and resources for families and communities have replaced earlier negative theories of ageing (Cummings and Henry 1961) which conceptualised ageing as withdrawal from society. One of the most widely accepted of these recent models has been that of active ageing which has been described as ‘the process of optimising opportunities for health, participation and security in order to enhance quality of life as people age.’ (World Health Organisation).
Finding ways to enable older people to continue to participate in society not only makes a huge contribution to the families and communities in which they live but also allows individuals to ‘realise their potential for physical, social and mental wellbeing’, providing on-going meaningful life roles. The key challenge is how to develop mechanisms and interventions to enable older people to unlock their potential.
The Lifestyle Matters intervention provides one such mechanism to enable people to recognise their strengths, to identify factors that prevent them from accessing valued life roles and develop ways to adapt activities to enable continued participation. Emphasis is placed throughout on building links with the local community so that skills and roles developed and rehearsed within the group setting can be generalised to the communities where people live and can be embedded into people’s daily lives.