The purpose of this study was to investigate altruism as a factor in task participation among the elderly. The question was whether elderly persons are more likely to participate in an activity designed to help or benefit others than in an activity with no such altruistic purpose. Four groups of persons living in a home for the aged (N = 130) were invited to participate in a cookie-decorating activity. The invitations for two of the groups stated that the cookies would be a gift for a local preschool, and the invitations for the other two groups did not. Significantly more individuals (n = 25) chose to participate when the product of the activity was to be a gift for preschool children than when no altruism was involved (n = 14). Implications for occupational therapy practice and research are discussed.

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