How caring work of older women gets disappeared: The gendered dynamics of changing everyday occupations in an older German couple

Almut Spaeth, Fenna van Nes, Petra Verdonk, Tineke Abma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background: In older couples, everyday occupations need to be adjusted when one of the partners experiences a health decline. Gender dynamics will play a role in this process, yet there is little understanding about how gender can influence and shape changes in couples’ occupations. Aim: To understand the changing occupations of old, independent-living couples when becoming caregivers and care receivers, through a gender lens. Methods: A narrative-in-action methodology with a case-study design has been chosen to enable an in-depth analysis of one couple. Besides joint and individual interviews with both partners, observations were made of their everyday occupations. The analytic process was interpretative, using gender theory as a lens for understanding. Results: In the couple’s narrative there was a difference in the time spent on, and meaning given to, occupations performed by each partner to sustain everyday life. The wife was heavily enrolled in taking care of her husband, a gendered pattern that was rooted in their spousal history. While her efforts were taken-for-granted, his efforts were acknowledged as special. Conclusion: The adjustment of the everyday occupations of this older couple were gendered, and led to a disappearing of the woman’s occupations and the care she was giving.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Occupational Science
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2023


  • Case study research
  • Everyday occupations
  • Gender theory
  • Narrative
  • Occupational science
  • Older couples

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