The role of Occupational Therapy and Aging in Place

July 3, 2010 at 9:26 am 3 comments

I have been an Occupational Therapist (OT) for 15 years and I continue to love what I do.  However, as mentioned in previous posts, I am frequently still educating the public about what Occupational Therapy is.  I am dedicating this blog post to continuing to educate about OT and promote our work with Aging in Place.

According to the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), OT is “a science-driven, evidence based profession that enables people of all ages to live life to its fullest by helping them promote health and prevent—or live with—illness, injury or disability”.  Essentially, the person who needs OT can be anyone, for whatever reason, that cannot do the things in life that they want or need to do.  We look at a person’s occupations (work, education, leisure, play, social participation, sleep, etc.) that are meaningful to them and work to maximize the person’s participation and independence with completion of these tasks.

As Occupational Therapists, we look holistically at the person, taking into consideration their strengths and limitations and how this will impact the task to be performed.  We are also considering the environment in which the task is to be performed and how the environment may also impact the person’s health, wellness and participation.

So, what is an OT’s role with Aging in Place?  Part of AOTA’s 2017 Centennial Vision “is to meet society’s occupational needs”.  This can be done with the aging population by helping them to age in place and “live life to its fullest” (AOTA slogan).  By utilizing our science-driven background, we are able to assess how a person may function in their home and participate in activities of daily living (ADLs).  We gather this information and make recommendations to improve a person’s independence and safety within their home.  These recommendations may include simple, or more involved environmental modifications such as recommending rocker switches, the addition of more lighting, lever handles on doors to the installation of grab bars, a curbless roll-in shower or the adjustment of a counter to allow for wheelchair accessibility.

As an Occupational Therapist that specializes in environmental modifications, I feel I bring a unique perspective to the aging in place and home modifications team.  We (OTs, contractors, builders, interior designers, product vendors, architects) are all pieces of the puzzle, but together best meet the needs of the client for aging in place home modifications.

Entry filed under: Aging-In-Place design, occupational therapy. Tags: , , , , , , .

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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Adam Griff  |  July 6, 2010 at 12:16 pm

    The occupational therapist’s greatest contribution is the perspective of the specific user. They understand the abilities and of limitations of an individual and can inform the architect, designer, general contractor, about the unique needs of the individual and help them think holistically. As an trained architect, I know most of the design world focuses on generic standards for accessibility.

    I also would argue that home-modification is not enough for successful aging in place. To age well you must continue to be active. The best way to be active is to get out of the house, whether that’s for yourself or the one you are caring for.

    Adam Griff

    • 2. empowerability  |  July 6, 2010 at 4:10 pm

      Hi Adam,
      Thank you for your comment. I completely agree with your insight regarding staying active. Providing solutions for a person within their home not only increases their participation with in-home activities, but also promotes participation in activities outside of the home as well.

  • 3. Gael Tannenbaum  |  July 8, 2010 at 9:01 am

    We couldn’t agree with you more! OTs are absolutely invaluable as part of an aging in place team. Thank you for taking the time to explain your role so well!


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