Day centres for older people - attender characteristics, access routes and outcomes of regular attendance: findings of exploratory mixed methods case study research

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Background: Social prescribing is encouraged to promote well-being, reduce isolation and loneliness. Traditional, generalist day centres for older people could be suggested by social prescribing, but little is known about their clientele or their outcomes. As part of a larger study of the role, outcomes and commissioning of generalist English day centres for older people, the characteristics of attenders at 4 day centres, their reasons for attendance and outcomes were explored. Methods: This mixed-methods study used qualitative interviews and standardised tools within an embedded multiple-case study design. Semi-structured interviews with older day centre attenders (n = 23, 62% of eligible attenders) of 4 day centres in south-east England, recruited purposively to reflect organisational differences, were analysed. Results: Participants reported non-elective withdrawal from socialisation following health or mobility decline, or losses. Apart from living arrangements and marital status, attenders' profiles differed between centres. Access had been mostly facilitated by others. Day centre attendance enhanced quality of life for this group of socially isolated people with mobility restrictions and at risk of declining independence and wellbeing. The positive impact on attenders' social participation and involvement and on meaningful occupation was significant (p-value < 0.001, 99% CI), with an average ASCOT gain score of 0.18. Ten outcome themes were identified. Conclusion: Outcomes of day centre attendance are those targeted by social care and health policy. Centres were communities that 'enabled' and offset loss or isolation, thus supporting ageing in place through wellbeing and contributed something unique to their attenders' lives. By monitoring attenders' health and wellbeing and providing practical support, information and facilitating access to other services, centres offered added value. Attendance needs to be set in the context of other social engagement and care provision which may not overlap or duplicate centre support. Professionals may wish to explore the benefits of social prescriptions to day centres but should map local centres' provision, engage with their organisers, and seek information on attenders, who may differ from those in this study.

Original languageEnglish
Article number158
JournalBMC Geriatrics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 4 May 2020


  • Ageing
  • Day centres
  • Frailty index
  • Group activity
  • Older people
  • Outcomes
  • Social isolation
  • Social prescription
  • Social support


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