Date of Paper/Work

5-2018

Type of Paper/Work

Doctoral Project

Degree Name

Doctor of Occupational Therapy

Department

Occupational Science/Occupational Therapy

First Advisor

Julie Bass

Abstract

The number of older adults in the United States is quickly growing. This growth along with the high cost of healthcare has created many new challenges associated with caring for aging adults. One way to support older adults in communities is through programs to educate seniors on healthy aging. Aging Innovatively program included strategies to support healthy aging and opportunities to learn about assistive technology to support older adults in the community. The specific aims of this project were: (a) To design a healthy aging program and targeted educational sessions for the pilot of the Aging Innovatively program, using current research, (b) Implement the pilot Aging Innovatively program and evaluate awareness and attitudes toward assistive technology, quality of life, life balance, and goal attainment for older adult participants. The program was piloted in the Quad Cities community of Iowa at the location of the community-partner, St. Paul Lutheran Church. This 5-week long program covered several topics on healthy aging including the importance of continued participation in everyday activities for health and well-being; how the home environment can support safety and everyday living; fall prevention strategies; staying socially active and involved in the community, and the importance of life-long learning to health and well-being. Exposure to assistive devices and technology with hands-on learning opportunities took place throughout the program. Two field trips were taken to Jim’s Place, an assistive technology home connected with the occupational therapy program at St. Ambrose University, to learn about supports within the home for successful aging. Participants also engaged in two individual coaching sessions and set personal goals to support healthy aging in their own lives.

Outcomes of the program resulted in significantly increased awareness, possession, and use of assistive technology devices, according to the Assistive Devices Awareness Scale. Scores in the Health subcategory on the Life Balance Inventory showed statistically significant improvement. Upward trends were noted in the Relationship, Challenge/Interest, and Commuting Time Satisfaction subcategories of the measure. Upward trends were also noted in the total scores of the Older People’s Quality of Life measure and the mean scores for the Attitudes toward Assistive Devices Scale.

Community-based healthy aging programs can help to support the health of older adults. Providing methods for aging in place at home can also promote a greater sense of well-being, and result in tremendous cost savings for older adults. Occupational therapy practitioners bring value to healthy aging programs, as they are client-focused, understand how the environment can affect participation, and recognize the importance of participating in meaningful everyday activities to health and well-being. This project built upon previous evidence on healthy aging programs, showing the positive effect of occupational therapy-led community-based healthy aging programs. The project intends to fill gaps within current literature, by blending the use of assistive technology to increase participation in meaningful everyday activities and improve quality of life.

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