Katharine Orellana is a Research Associate in the Social Care Workforce Research Unit in The Policy Institute at King’s. (479 words)
Day centres for older people have been an integral part of social care in England since the 1960s. Recently, attention has focused on providing individualised support for older people with care needs. The relevance and desirability of group services, such as day centres, are questioned. Many are closing.
Our newly published review of the literature about day centres covers what people say about them and reports the evidence on centres’ benefits and purposes. Focusing on centres that do not specialise in the care of older people with dementia and covering the period 2005-17, it highlights both what is known and the gaps in evidence about these services.
Seventy-seven papers were included in the review, identified in searches of electronic databases, libraries, websites, research repositories and journals. These papers reported hugely different ways of doing things, illustrating the breadth and complexity of day centres, both within and between countries, which add to the challenges for researchers.
We found evidence that day centres play a variety of roles for individuals and in care systems. The largest body of evidence concerned social and preventive outcomes. Centre attendance and participation in activities within them impacted positively on older people’s mental health, social contacts, physical functioning and quality of life. However, evidence about outcomes was mainly from outside the United Kingdom. In addition to being under-researched generally, particularly in the UK, day centres for older people without dementia are not being studied as whole services.
The review highlights the considerable knowledge gaps concerning how day centres are perceived, their outcomes, what they offer, to whom and their wider stakeholders, including family carers, volunteers, staff and professionals who are funding, recommending or referring older people to them. The lack of research about English day centres may suggest a less defined role compared with some other countries. Yet it may also be the consequence of the limited funding for social care research or reflect the low priority given to this service model by policy-makers and researchers. The mainly positive outcomes reported in the 2005-17 literature align with current English policy themes suggesting that day centres may not be as irrelevant as some people seem to believe.
This review was undertaken to inform a three-year study hosted by SCWRU and the Institute of Gerontology that was funded by the Dunhill Medical Trust.
Orellana K, Manthorpe J, Tinker A (2018). Day centres for older people: a systematically conducted scoping review of literature about their benefits, purposes and how they are perceived. Ageing & Society 1–32. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0144686X18000843