The role and purpose of generalist day centres for older people
: Case studies of four day centres from multiple perspectives

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis investigated the role and purpose of generalist English day centres for older people, a largely ignored and under-researched part of social care that has been affected by changing policy, practice and funding contexts.
Using mixed methods within an embedded multiple-case study design, this thesis paints an in-depth picture of four day centres. It reports perspectives of four participant groups (n=69), gathered in 2015-16 by interview and standardised measurement tools: centre attenders, their family carers, day centre personnel and local authority adult services staff.
Findings illustrate the diversity of day centres and challenge assumptions concerning their continued relevance by evidencing that outcomes for their mainly housebound and socially isolated attenders, family carers and centre volunteers are precisely 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. They promoted wellbeing in (younger) older volunteers, provided job satisfaction, supported carers and contributed something unique to their attenders’, volunteers’ and staff’s lives. Findings from the completion of the Adult Social Care Outcomes Toolkit indicated attenders’ and carers’ quality of life improvements were directly attributable to day centres. By monitoring attenders’ health and wellbeing and providing practical support, information and facilitating access to other services, centres offered added value. Fundamental to outcomes were the group environment and continuity that centres provided. Attenders’ experiences were mainly positive, but were sometimes negatively affected by increasing proportions of cognitively impaired attenders.
Mainly, day centres were not stigmatised, but awareness of them before attending one was low. The study identified the potential for development and optimisation of day centres to maximise the impact of health and care services; partnership working with these, and with community organisations, were variable. Implications for policymakers and practice are made and recommendations for further research provided.
Date of Award2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorJill Manthorpe (Supervisor) & Anthea Tinker (Supervisor)

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