Graduation Year


Document Type


Degree Type

Open Access Capstone

Degree Name

Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD)


Occupational Therapy


Background: According to productive aging initiatives from the American Occupational Therapy Association, occupational therapy practitioners play an integral role in advancing and promoting wellness and independence of adults in later life. Evidence has indicated that numerous occupational therapy interventions can enhance the quality of life and functional ability levels of older adults and may be modified to target the needs of older adults who experience the threat of hunger.

Purpose: The purpose of this qualitative descriptive study is to explore how occupational therapy practitioners view their role in enhancing older adults’ healthy eating behaviors and reducing the risk of food insecurity through the use of client-centered interventions tailored to food-related activities. The study aimed to answer the following research questions:

1. How do occupational therapy practitioners perceive their role related to food insecurity in older adults?

2. How do occupational therapy practitioners use strategies and barriers to enhance food-related activity participation in later life?

Theoretical Framework. The Model of Human Occupation (MOHO) is a holistic model that considers multiple factors that influence a person’s occupational performance (Kielhofner, 2008; Taylor, 2017). This study embraced the assumption that engagement in meaningful tasks could help develop skills, build confidence, establish habits, and increase occupational performance.

Methods. The capstone project implemented a qualitative descriptive design, using interviews. The respondents were occupational therapy practitioners practicing primarily with the older adult in the home health care and subacute settings in Northwest Georgia. Convenience sampling was utilized to obtain the sample. The study enrolled 8 occupational therapy practitioners from two practice settings.

Results. Once a priori coding was completed and categories were determined, three main themes emerge:

  1. Knowledge is power, but whose role is it really?
  2. Knowledge is power, but actually applying what you know is even more powerful.
  3. It’s inevitable; your environment will influence what you do.

Conclusions: Engagement in food-related activities and occupations has been highly valued for many older individuals, impacting healthy aging and quality of life in later years. This requires urgent attention from occupational therapy practitioners due to the growing population of older adults who experience food insecurity.

Faculty Mentor

Shirley O’Brien, Ph.D., OTR/L, FAOTA

Department Affiliation

Occupational Therapy

Committee Member

Dana M. Howell, PhD, OTD, OTR/L, FAOTA

Department Affiliation

Occupational Therapy

Department Affiliation

Occupational Therapy



I would like to thank all the people who provided support and guidance in my life and on my educational journey…

I thank Eastern Kentucky University for accepting me as a student and giving me the opportunity to further my professional development.

A heartfelt thanks to Dr. Shirley O’Brien, my program advisor and final research advisor/ committee chair, for giving me support, guidance, and for letting me explore my creativity during the Capstone process; for always providing motivation that kept me going forward even in those tough moments when I was not sure I would make it.

A sincere appreciation to Dr. Dana Howell, my committee member, for also guiding me through my research, for giving me invaluable advice and encouragement.

A special thanks to all our EKU professors who helped build my knowledge base and skills the past three years that prepared me for this project; your contribution is definitely felt and very much appreciated.

I thank all my participants: this research would not have been possible without your willingness and cooperation. Thanks for believing in this project.

A thanks to Dr. Andrea Berke-McLaughlin, my classmate, for the positive talks as needed and for cheering me on. I am so glad I found you as a new friend! I send out a thanks to other numerous friends who understood my busy school schedule and provided much-needed encouragement.

Finally, I want to give a whole-hearted recognition to my family: my husband Robby, for all your support during this whole process; my children Eva, Eli and Emma. Thank you for inspiring me, believing in me, and for staying by my side through the exhausting research periods. You kept me going, and this project and my success would not have been possible without you.

Thank you all so much!

IRB Approval Number (if applicable)