Material Citizenship Matters, Here’s Why

Dr. Kellyn Lee, a research fellow specializing in Ageing and Dementia, School of Health Sciences, University of Southampton, defines Material Citizenship as: ‘The right to be included in decision-making relating to personal possessions and the right to have opportunities to use functional objects to perform everyday tasks.’  Her focus, while conducting several studies, was specific to personal possessions people take with them into senior communities or care homes, and how “functional objects” are used, and by whom.  She defined functional objects as: ‘any inanimate item which a person can use to perform a task not necessarily to completion or to any perceived standard, which maintains or supports cultivation of his or her identities.’  

The purpose of these studies is to learn about the connection people make with objects and why.  Further, she delves into the importance of permitting residents the continued use of functional objects.  

As a member of staff, or a family member of a senior with dementia, it is far easier to determine what objects are deemed safe for a resident to, first of all, take to the community, and second, to appropriate its use.  In doing so, we are failing to recognize that could be more harmful than ever intended. 

Dr. Lee goes on to demonstrate that access to and use of functional objects can support the following:

  1. Empowerment – residents being able to take part in everyday life
  2. Social citizenship – residents being supported to make decisions and take action based upon those decisions
  3. Risk management – care home staff can use functional objects to assess the ‘real’ risk involved when using an object
  4. Protection – supporting care home staff to employ care practices that are not overly restrictive


Inspired Senior Care’s objective is to create a culture where we have educated and qualified staff to draw on Dr. Lee’s research and implement it into daily routines that establish an environment that supports its’ seniors.  Let us not take for granted, the hair dryer, curling iron, vacuum or coffee mug and what little those items might mean to us, instead, let us focus on their significance and impact that could truly be giving a sense of material citizenship back to our seniors.

At Inspired Senior Care, we’re laying the framework for a sustainable, person-centered, care-driven culture.  We will empower your team with research-based, proven tactics to streamline their mastery of individualized, life-enhancing senior care!

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