Happy older woman sitting on a couch and resting on a cane.

Practical Applications of Occupational Therapy for Older Adults

Occupational therapy (OT) offers older adults a holistic treatment plan for easing pain and maintaining participation in the activities that bring you joy.

While occupational therapists frequently work with seniors who are recovering from surgery or stroke, OT is not limited to those major events. There are many other ways OT providers work with older adults to promote safety, independence and a high quality of life. Some of the common reasons seniors go to occupational therapy include:

  • Stroke
  • Range of motion issues
  • Memory loss
  • Arthritis
  • Vision loss
  • Fall prevention


According to the CDC, the chance of having a stroke roughly doubles every 10 years after age 55. If you or a loved one suffer a stroke, an occupational therapist will work closely with you well into recovery to return to your highest level of functioning. While side effects of a stroke vary in scope and severity from person to person, occupational therapists are trained to treat the physical, emotional and mental challenges that accompany stroke recovery. Working with an occupational therapist will not only help the individual in recovery with increased independence and better quality of life, but it will also lift some of the burden off the primary caregiver.

Range of Motion

Range of motion (ROM) is the degree of movement available in a particular joint. ROM in joints like hips, knees, shoulders and wrists is important for the completion of daily tasks. As ROM decreases, whether naturally due to the aging process or due to surgery or medical conditions, simply completing activities of daily living can become a chore. An occupational therapist will assess your particular situation and offer exercise techniques, ultrasound, splints or neuromuscular re-education to maintain or improve your range of motion.

Support for Cognitive Decline

Subjective cognitive decline ranges from minor cognitive impairment to serious cases of dementia. According to the CDC, 11.7 percent of adults over the age of 65 report experiencing some form of subjective cognitive decline. Occupational therapists offer behavioral and environmental modifications to help individuals with mild cognitive decline and those in the early stages of Alzheimer’s operate safely and independently. OT providers might recommend implementing signage or adapted routines for safety or adaptive equipment to simplify daily tasks.

While the work of an occupational therapist alone cannot prevent a disease like Alzheimer’s from progressing, it can ease some of the burden of the primary caregiver while keeping affected individuals safe and independent longer through environmental and behavioral modifications. In later stages of the disease, it might be time to include expert memory care services.

OT for Arthritis

Many older adults are no stranger to arthritis. In fact,1 in 4 adults suffer from arthritis. The pain and discomfort associated with the swelling of joints can make activities of daily living difficult. Occupational therapists can work with you to establish a treatment plan that meets your particular goals. Treatment might include manual therapies, pain management techniques, exercises and adaptive equipment all intended to relieve arthritis pain and make it easier to fully enjoy the day-to-day activities you love.

Vision Assistance

While aging can cause a normal loss of vision, conditions like macular degeneration, glaucoma or stroke can also have a more serious impact on vision. Changes in vision can greatly affect the ability to complete activities of daily living as you are used to and even lead to feelings of depression or isolation. Thanks to the holistic nature of occupational therapy, your OT provider will address the behavioral, environmental, mental and emotional challenges associated with impaired vision.

Education on healthy habits that remove vision-dependent steps from daily tasks, the use of adaptive equipment and environmental modifications like high-visibility tape or signage can help keep you safe and independent while reducing the risk of falls.

Fall Prevention

According to the National Council on Aging, 1 in 4 adults over the age of 65 will fall every year. Many of those falls can be avoided with the intervention of an occupational therapist. An OT provider will recommend behavioral and environmental modifications, like removing clutter, moving rugs or installing grab bars to reduce the risk of falling around the home and help you safely age in place. Risk of falling also increases with vision loss, cognitive decline and loss of range of motion, which is why seeing an occupational therapist for those conditions can help keep you safe, healthy and living life to the fullest.

Abbey Delray Health Services

One of the benefits of living in a community like Abbey Delray is the availability of additional health services on-site. If you or a loved one are living in our community and require additional healthcare or support services, it’s easy to find a provider near you.

The certified occupational therapists in the Abbey Delray Health Center work with residents in independent living, assisted living, skilled nursing and short-term rehabilitation as well as older adults living in the Delray Beach community. If you think you could benefit from working with an OT provider, talk to your physician about incorporating occupational therapy into your care plan.

If you’re interested in learning more about the health services at Abbey Delray for you or a loved one, please fill out the form below or call us at 561-454-2000.