Poster Session
Issue Date: August 2016
Published Online: August 01, 2016
Updated: January 01, 2021
Conditional Independence: Development of a Grounded Theory to Enable Productive Aging
Author Affiliations
  • Sacred Heart University
  • Quinnipiac University
Article Information
Geriatrics/Productive Aging / Prevention and Intervention
Poster Session   |   August 01, 2016
Conditional Independence: Development of a Grounded Theory to Enable Productive Aging
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, August 2016, Vol. 70, 7011515250.
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, August 2016, Vol. 70, 7011515250.

Date Presented 4/7/2016

The grounded theory of conditional independence was derived from an original qualitative research study in which 40 retirees described how self-management, social connections, and self-fulfilling activities promoted productive aging.

Primary Author and Speaker: Karen Macdonald

Additional Author and Speaker: Marilyn B. Cole

RESEARCH QUESTION: What are the secrets of successful and productive aging for today’s retirees?
RATIONALE: In response to the American Occupational Therapy Association’s Centennial Vision, we conducted original research on productive aging, an emerging area of practice. Productive aging goes beyond fitness and lifestyles to include choosing or adapting roles and occupations that keep retirees engaged with their communities. However, as they age, emerging health conditions could compromise their ability to live and function independently. Our Productive Aging Study explores the lived experiences of life transitions and challenges of older adulthood.
DESIGN: Qualitative methodology using semistructured interviews
PARTICIPANTS: We selected 40 participants according to the following inclusionary criteria: retired (or partially), community dwelling, and participating in at least three of six productive occupations–roles: self-manager, home manager, caregiver, volunteer, paid worker, and student–lifelong learner (Knight et al., 2007). Purposive sampling included some referrals from initial participants, and efforts were made to seek those with diverse backgrounds.
METHOD: Preliminary fieldwork guided the design of a semistructured interview. Individual in-home interviews lasted 45–90 min. The two researchers took extensive notes, and emerging themes influenced subsequent data collection. To ensure trustworthiness, we sent all participants a summary of findings, asking them to reply with their comments and feedback in writing.
ANALYSIS: Constant comparative analysis occurred throughout the process of data collection. Coded data yielded three themes: self-management, social connections, and self-fulfilling activities. We then identified which systems and structures occupational therapists (OTs) need to support in order to promote the three themes. Final data synthesis led to development of a grounded theory titled conditional independence (Macdonald, 2015).
RESULTS: Our participants identified some specific strategies and adaptations that contributed to their high levels of engagement in meaningful occupations. Using activity analysis, we sought to understand their process for using their own capacities and environments to continue with their uniquely meaningful roles and occupations. The constructs identified in this grounded theory include situational adaptation, structured performance, and intentional abilities within an identified context, leading to supported function.
DISCUSSION: Today’s retirees are much more likely to be invested in managing their own aging process and doing whatever it takes to remain engaged with their lives inside and outside the home. OTs need a new, client-centered theoretical approach for dealing with changing outlooks of future older clients. This theory applies across the continuum of care from prevention and wellness to home care and hospice to support self-management in achieving the optimal ability to age productively.
IMPACT STATEMENT: The theory of conditional independence provides an evidence-based foundation for addressing three essential elements of productive aging: self-management, social connections, and self-fulfilling activities. Our results influence occupational therapy practice via client education, consultation with caregivers and organizations, and recommendations for policy changes.
Knight, J., Ball, V., Corr, S., Turner, A., Lowis, M., & Ekberg, M. (2007). An empirical study to identify older adults’ engagement in productivity occupations. Journal of Occupational Science, 14, 145–153.
Macdonald, K. (2015). A theory of conditional independence. In M. Cole & K. Macdonald, Productive aging: An occupational perspective (pp. 231–242). Thorofare, NJ: Slack.