Open Access Open Access  Restricted Access Subscription or Fee Access

The importance of autonomy in nursing home facilities

Leah J. Carter, BS, Marieke Van Puymbroeck, PhD, CTRS


The benefits of autonomy have long been studied. This article seeks to explicate the importance of autonomy in nursing home facilities and the effect that autonomy can have on the quality of life of the residents in these long-term facilities. Autonomy is crucial in these facilities because of the impact it has on self-determination and intrinsic motivation. The benefits that come from these principles include increased participation, decreased depressive symptoms, and increased quality of life among residents. Although the importance of autonomy in nursing homes may seem elementary for many practitioners, efforts to promote autonomy are not commonly operationalized. It is important to revisit this topic because there will be an increasing number of older Americans in the years to come and it has direct implications for recreation therapy service delivery.


autonomy, participation, nursing homes, self-determination theory, intrinsic motivation, recreation therapy

Full Text:



Duncan C: Loneliness, helplessness, and boredom: A nursing home administrator takes a walk in a resident’s shoes. Nurs Homes Wash Clevel. 2007; 56(9): 86.

Mauk K: Gerontological Nursing: Competencies for Care. 2nd ed. Sudbury, MA: Jones & Bartlett Publishers, 2010.

Proot I, Crebolder H, Abu-Saad H, et al.: Autonomy in the rehabilitation of stroke patients in nursing homes. A concept analysis. Scand J Caring Sci. 1998; 12(3): 139-145.

Haberkost M: Importance of quality recreation activities for older adults residing in nursing homes: Considerations for gerontologists. Educ Gerontol. 1996; 22(8): 735-745.

Alexandris K, Tsorbatzoudis C, Grouios G: Perceived constraints on recreational sport participation: Investigating their relationship with intrinsic motivation, extrinsic motivation and amotivation. J Leisure Res. 2002; 34(3): 233-252.

Chatzisarantis N, Hagger M, Brickell T: Using the construct of perceived autonomy support to understand social influence within the theory of planned behavior. Psychol Sport Exerc. 2008; 9(1): 27-44.

Kasser V, Ryan R: The relation of psychological needs for autonomy and relatedness to vitality, well-being, and mortality in a nursing home. J Appl Soc Psychol. 1999; 29: 935-954.

Meeks S, Young C, Looney S: Activity participation and affect among nursing home residents: Support for a behavioural model of depression. Aging Mental Health. 2007; 11(6): 751-760.

Trenberth L: The role, nature and purpose of leisure and its contribution to individual development and well-being. Br J Guid Counc. 2005; 33(1): 6.

Jacelon C: Theoretical perspectives of perceived control in older adults: A selective review of the literature. J Adv Nurs. 2007; 59(1): 1-10.

Reinardy J: Relocation to a new environment: Decisional control and the move to a nursing home. Health Soc Work 1995; 20(1): 31-38.

Boyle G: Facilitating choice and control for older people in long-term care. Health Soc Care Commun. 2004; 12(3): 212-220.

Buettner L, Voelkl JE: Introduction to the special issue on promoting positive aging through activity and therapeutic recreation. Ther Recreation J. 2006; 40(1): 16-17.

Austin E, Johnston Y, Morgan L: Community gardening in a senior center: A therapeutic intervention to improve the health of older adults. Ther Recreation J. 2006; 40(1): 48.

Porter HR, Burlingame J: Recreation Therapy Handbook of Practice: ICF-Based Diagnosis and Treatment. Enumclaw, WA: Idyll Arbor, 2006.

Buettner L: Seven projects to improve quality of life for residents with dementia. Am J Recreation Ther. 2010; 11(1): 5-6.

Buettner L: Evidence to support an advanced role for recreational therapists: Staff trainer in long term care. Am J Recreation Ther. 2010; 8(4): 29-34.

Faulkner M: The onset and alleviation of learned helplessness in older hospitalized people. Aging Mental Health. 2001; 5(4): 379-386.



  • There are currently no refbacks.
This site uses cookies to maintain session information critical to the user's experience and environment on this system. Click "Accept Cookies" to continue.
For more details please visit our privacy statement at: Privacy & GDPR