Older Adults and Occupational Therapy
As we age, we start to notice that many of the everyday activities that we could once do with ease and independently, often take a little more effort, focus and sometimes assistance. You or your loved one may be starting to experience the effects on your daily lives of reduced mobility and difficulties with balance, sensory loss (such as vision or hearing) or even changes in your ability to think or remember. While these are all part of the natural aging process, just because our bodies are slowing down, it does not mean that we have to stop doing the things that we want or need to do in our lives!
Occupational Therapists are skilled at enabling individuals to safely perform their daily activities in their home or community environments. Occupational Therapists define the word ‘occupation’ as
...the activities and tasks that individuals perform in their everyday lives that have value and meaning for them.
This can include looking after themselves (self-care), enjoying life (leisure) and contributing to their communities (productivity) (CAOT, 1997a). Mobility or having difficulty moving around affects all three of these domains. Activities that once were easy such as spending time with your grandchildren, having a shower or volunteering within the community can become increasingly difficult tasks. When combined with or as a result of other health conditions such as dementia, cardiovascular problems, diabetes, etc. – tasks can become very frustrating.
Occupational Therapists can help! We look at the whole picture – you (or your loved one), the activities you want to do and are having difficulty with and your surrounding environment (whether that be physical, social, cultural or institutional). From this holistic assessment, we follow to help provide you with rehabilitative or adaptive solutions so you can do the occupations that you enjoy in life. This may include providing you with adaptive equipment or strategies to help make a task easier (i.e. written down steps of how to operate an appliance), altering the set up of your environment (i.e. bath stool or grab bar for showering) or even working on strengthening or balance exercises for you!
One thing that you can be sure of is this: Aging does not have to stop you from living the life you desire!
written by Rachel Tavares, Reg.OT(Ont.)
c/o the Steady Senior Program