Older women sharing a coffee


This research group seeks to bring together people from a range of backgrounds to further understand how participation in daily life influences health and well-being. Participation occurs when an individual and/or a community is involved in activities, which provide a sense of engagement.
Participation: what is it?
  • is ‘involvement in a life situation’ (WHO, 2001)
  • is a process as well as an outcome measure (Imms, 2017)
  • is a health and well-being outcome
  • is concerned with people, their occupations within their cultural, economic, physical, political and social environment.
Please select the links to discover more about current research.
Research Group leader
  • Dr Alison Warren, Research Lead for Occupational Therapy, University of Plymouth. Extensive experience of integrating professional practice with service development and research. 
Participation in Everyday Life Research Group logo
Backgrounds of research group membership 
  • Occupational Therapists
  • Public Health Dietitians
  • Physiotherapists
  • Community Project Workers
  • Open to all.
Research group activities
  • PIEL meetings across the year exploring a range of themes including promoting research collaboration, sharing grant application success and seeking feedback on research plans.
  • The members of PIEL are interested in fostering links with a wide range of partners from within health and social care but also with charitable organisations and industry. 
  • Regular Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy (OS/OT) webinar series exploring concepts related to participation.
  • For more information about how to get involved with the PIEL meetings or the OS/ OT webinar series please contact Dr Alison Warren.
International links
  • Dr Leonie Boland, Dublin, Ireland (Honorary Lecturer)
  • Occupational Science Europe, Dr Tanja Krizaj (Committee Member)
  • University of Malta, Fiona Fraser (Visiting Scholar)
  • Dr Maria O’Reilly, Central Queensland University, Australia (Research Collaborator)
  • Professor Lynette Mackenzie, University of Sydney, Australia (Honorary Professor)
Research group expertise 
  • Qualitative Methodologies; interviews, photo elicitation and focus groups
  • Service users involvement in research
  • Realist research
  • Scoping Reviews
  • Systematic Reviews including Qualitative Synthesis
  • Occupational Science

Research spotlight

Accessible air travel for people living with dementia 

Improving access to air travel for people living with dementia and their companions has been a priority area for researchers and students at the University of Plymouth since 2015.
Our projects and ongoing research highlight the importance of working together locally, nationally and internationally to generate positive and sustainable change.
Illustration showing the importance of how people speak to you, and the difference between rude and helpful staff at an airport.

Research Group members

  • Associate Professor of Occupational Therapy
    PIEL Group Leader, Dementia-Friendly Flying & Technology
  • Associate Head of School (Marketing and Recruitment)
    Homelessness Social Transformation Public Health Food-Based Occupations
  • Lecturer in Occupational Therapy (Education)
    Clinical Leadership Employability
  • Lecturer in Occupational Therapy
    Occupational Science Older Adults Healthy Aging Care Homes
  • Children’s Participation and Mainstream Schools Handwriting Visual Perception
  • Associate Professor in Public Health Dietetics
    Food as a Lifestyle Motivator Creative Approaches to Food Research
  • Deputy Head of School
    Occupational Science Health Promotion Outdoor Adventure
  • Lecturer / Academic CPD Co-ordinator
    Chiropractice Attitudes to Evidence-Based Practice Qualitative Research
  • Lecturer in Occupational Therapy
  • Lecturer in Occupational Therapy
    Dementia, service user involvement in research
  • Lecturer in Occupational Therapy
    Outcome measures in practice
  • Lecturer in Occupational Therapy
    Amputee Rehabilitation
  • Lecturer in Occupational Therapy
    Health Promotion
  • Lecturer in Occupational Therapy
    Trauma Informed Practice
  • Lecturer in Occupational Therapy
    Primary Care
  • Lecturer in Physiotherapy (Education)

Doctoral research

How is everyday occupational engagement of older people living in Extra Care housing informed by the use of technology? 

This research will investigate the use of technology in all its forms by older people living within Extra Care housing facilities to ascertain if technology can enhance occupational engagement, improve care provision and promote participation in community life. This research is being undertaken in three distinct phases:
1. A scoping review of literature to develop understanding around how technology facilitates occupational engagement for older people living in assisted living facilities (including extra care housing).  
2. An ethnographic study, exploring everyday life in Extra Care housing facilities through observations, conversations, interviews and focus groups with residents, their family and friends and staff.
3. A feasibility study of an occupation- focused, technology driven intervention that aims to promote positive health and well-being outcomes for older people in an Extra Care facility
Rachael Malthouse stood near a lake
Rachael Malthouse
Director of Studies: Dr Tanja Krizaj
Ben Morris stood in front of a plain white wall. 
Ben Morris
Director of Studies: Dr Alison Warren

Digital technologies and creative thinking: a study in enhancing the living environment of adults with learning disabilities who have dementia. 

“I am a PHD candidate currently looking into how digital technologies can be used to support clients living with a learning disability and dementia to engage in the activities which are meaningful and purposeful to them, through the modification of their environment.  An intended output of this research is a protocol which will help match clients to the technology that will allow them to engage with their goals.”

Uncovering the role of Primary Care Occupational therapy for Older Adults with Long term Conditions

Sam's research stems from her passion in working with the older adult population and ensuring older adults are supported, where needed, to remain embedded within society and age successfully. Sam's PhD is exploring the role of occupational therapy within primary care for older adults living with long term conditions. This has involved conducting both primary qualitative research with older adults living with a range of long-term conditions and occupational therapist working with primary care, and a scoping review exploring the design of primary care globally for chronic condition management, across physical and mental health. 
This research hopes to lead onto developing the role of occupational therapy within primary care within the UK, starting locally within Devon and Cornwall involving increasing awareness and eventually, piloting the role within GP practices.
Sam Wakley
Sam Wakley
Director of Studies: Dr Tanja Krizaj
Claire Hornsby
Claire Hornsby
Director of Studies: Dr Rosi Raine

Exploring the use of Stand-up Paddle-boarding and Surf therapy in children experiencing anxiety and depression

“My PhD thesis aims to explore the experiences of children and young people participating in either a surf therapy course or a stand-up paddle-boarding course. The six week surf therapy course has been a long established programme delivered by the charity, and has been shown to have a positive impact on mental health and wellbeing. Stand-up paddle-boarding is an aquatic activity which can be conducted on rivers, canals and lakes rendering it potentially more accessible to adolescents living inland. Using a phenomenological approach this PhD will explore the impact of the change of aquatic activity from surfing to paddle-boarding and environment from sea to canal on the experiences of the participants, volunteers and instructors.”

An Occupational Therapy Perspective of Sensory Processing and Occupational Participation in Forensic Mental Health

The research aim:
To explore occupational therapists’ practice-based, and service users' lived experience, of sensory processing and its influence on occupational participation in a forensic mental health setting.
This research was guided by hermeneutic phenomenology. Following a scoping review, two studies were conducted to generate meaning about sensory processing and occupational participation in this setting. Through semi-structured interviews, first occupational therapists' practice-based experiences were explored, then service users' lived experiences. These interviews were reflexively thematically analysed, then to generate deeper meaning about this contextually rooted phenomenon, a hermeneutic circle was also used.
The findings of this research will inform recommendations for occupational therapy practice in forensic mental health inpatient settings.
Elana Moore
Elana Moore
Director of Studies: Dr Rosi Raine
Miranda Cunningham
Miranda Cunningham
Director of Studies: Dr Alison Warren

A Critical Exploration of Social Transformation Through Occupation

Miranda is interested in understanding how occupational therapists can contribute to social change and improve the health and well-being of marginalised populations through using occupation-based interventions. Her research began with an exploration of the literature related to the use of arts-based occupations in communities with the intention of bringing about social transformations. This explored mediums such as theatre, graffiti, music and photography. Miranda has gone on to use Realist methods to explore how, why and for whom change comes about. Initially, she explored the different contexts and mechanisms though which participatory photography brings about transformative outcomes. The final part of her research is a Realist Evaluation of an arts-based group for adults and children based in primary schools in inner city areas. Miranda hopes her research will help to inform future occupation-based community public health practice and establish the groundwork for future arts-based interventions.

Occupational Therapy in Pain Management. An exploration of current practice and the occupational needs of those living with chronic pain and their friends/family supporters.

Rebecca worked as an Occupational Therapist in a Pain Management service, her aim was to undertake research that recognised the importance of amplifying the voice of the those living with chronic pain and their friends/family supporters. She has expert advisors who form a stakeholder group with lived experience of chronic pain and Occupational Therapists who identify as working in this area of practice to inform all phases of this study.
Rebecca’s research project will provide insight into current United Kingdom, Occupational Therapy practice in Pain Management. It will explore the occupational needs of those living with chronic pain and their friends/family supporters and consider the role occupational therapy has in providing tailored intervention. The intended output would be to use phases of the study to raise and advocate for the role of Occupational Therapy in supporting those living with chronic pain and develop a complex Occupational Therapy intervention.
Rebecca Slee
Rebecca Slee
Director of Studies: Dr Miriam Noonan
Participation in Everyday Life logo
Participation In Everyday LifeGetty imagesgirl 
Participation In Everyday LifeGetty