Living a balanced lifestyle at the College of Occupational Therapy conference, Glasgow

Well another year has come and have just returned from the 37th occupational therapy (OT) annual conference, this year held in Glasgow SECC – a wonderful place looking a little like a giant, silver armadillo on the burnished skyline.

Lord Walton of Detchant in his role as President of the College of OT did an inspiring introduction to the fellowship awards but perhaps most notably pointed out that the occupational therapy profession needed to do more research to promote its work. Definitely a salient point.  Similarly, Lord David Freud, Minister for Welfare reform, Dept of Work and Pensions, (looking uncannily like Alistair Darling, Labour MP from a distance),  delivered a keynote address on the role occupational therapists have in assessing the physical and mental functional abilities of people in order to access or return to paid work and seemed keen to utilize the unique skills of the profession in this role. However, he too asked for robust evidence to support the achievable outcomes.

Conversely,  Elaine Hunter the national allied health practitioner consultant for Alzheimer Scotland gave a stirring Casson Memorial lecture that evidenced how occupational therapists have physically changed the landscape of  care for people with Alzheimer’s in Scotland and raised the profile of the profession to boot. This suggested that with hard work and drive, the profession can evidence how it can facilitate change and change in and of itself to make a difference to others. Take a look at her blog at http://elaineahpmh.wordpress.com/ for more details.

Apart from all these rather prestigious speakers I delivered my own paper entitled “Whose occupational balance is it anyway? Strategies for living a balanced lifestyle” (see  http://orca-mwe.cf.ac.uk/47541/  for abstract) and it seemed to go down quite well. It was interesting to note that all the participants in the room, with perhaps one or two notable exceptions? resonated more with the findings in terms of IMBALANCE than balance in their everyday lives. We talked at some length about the symbolic capital of paid work, the intensification most now experience in the workplace and the busyness of everyday life, at least in the western conceptions of life, something Hochschild (2008) has called the ‘opiate of the masses’. We chatted about Meyer’s (1922)…(yes 1922!!) notion of paid work being balanced with the “sacredness of the moment” and how as OTs we really did need to move back to that value system and embrace balance in our own lives and to actually live it. I have a few techniques up my sleeve due to studying just this with OTs for several years, some of which we shared as a group today. Ill return to this at a different point in the not to distance future. At the moment, a little R&R beckons and catch up time with the family!

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