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April is Occupational Therapy Awareness Month

April is National Occupational Therapy Month. This month is all about increasing awareness about all the benefits of Occupational Therapy, as well as the professionals who provide it. Occupational therapists work with individuals from age newborn through adult, which is why there are so many misperceptions concerning OT and also explains why people are not sure what exactly occupational therapy is.

The American Occupational Therapy Association, Inc. (AOTA) affectionately refers to April as “OT Month.” The AOTA states an occupational therapist or OT assistant’s “holistic and customized approach to evaluations, interventions, and outcomes help a child with disabilities participate in school and in social situations, assist a person recovering from injuries to regain skills, aid an older adult to stay as independent as possible, and offer the specialized support and services to people of all ages and in all circumstances that only occupational therapy can provide.” (Batema)

There are many different populations that Occupational Therapists can work with. Some work with young children who struggle with motor skills and developmental milestones. Others help people who have suffered in an accident or other life-changing event, Occupational Therapists help individuals to regain fine motor skills they have lost and learn new ways to perform acts of daily living. They may also work with older individuals who are going through mental or physical changes maintain a reasonable level of independence. Occupation Therapists help people get back to work, back to driving, back to acts of daily living that we often take for granted.

The professionals at Homes Safe Homes are not medical specialists, so we work with Occupational Therapists in order to help us know what modifications are needed now and what may be needed down the road as conditions progress. This allows the Home Safe Homes team to make recommendations to the client, and install equipment that will make aging-in-place possible as the disorder evolves.

Batema, Cara. “SpecialNeeds.com.” Occupational Therapy Month | SpecialNeeds.com, SpecialNeeds.com, www.specialneeds.com/activities/general-special-needs/occupational-therapy-month.

Misconceptions and Realities of Aging-In-Place

This blog will be the first of a four-part series posted throughout the month of February. Each post will address one of the most common misconceptions about aging in place, followed by the reality.

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Misconception: Aging in Place is a Conversation for ‘Old’ People
Many people do not want to talk about or make plans for aging in place because they believe that it is only something “old” people need to do. Amongst homeowners who are 55 years old or older, 61 percent say that they are planning to stay in their home indefinitely as they age. The most common reasons they cite are that they enjoy the independence they feel in their current home, they feel safe in their present home, they do not have any physical disabilities, and they have family who lives nearby. However, HomeAdvisor found that homeowners who are over age 70 (77 percent) are more likely to desire staying in their home than homeowners who are age 56-70 (56 percent). (“Aging in Place Report 2016 | HomeAdvisor” 2017)

This gap could be explained by people not feeling old enough to start the conversation on aging-in-place. On the other hand, it could also be rationalized by the fact that most individuals who plan on moving have most likely already done so by their 70s, whereas those who are older are already aging-in-place.

In fact, HomeAdvisor found that roughly 1/5 of homeowners have completed renovations that would allow them to age-in-place, whereas 1/3 of homeowners report having never considered making these types of modifications. Those who have not thought about aging-in-place renovations have two main reasons. The top reason given was that neither these individuals nor their loved ones had disabilities that would require such modifications to be made. The second most common reason given was that these homeowners did not consider themselves old enough to warrant contemplating these types of renovations. (“Aging in Place Report 2016 | HomeAdvisor” 2017)

Reality: The Best Time to Think About Aging in Place is … Now

No one wants to age, or believe that they are getting older, which is why it makes sense that people wait until their seventies to announce that they have decided to “age-in-place”. On the other hand, something everyone wants to do is, “thrive-in-place”. In other words, they want to make their homes more accommodating.

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A young woman in her first home could add a shower bench to her to her tub to make it easier to shave her legs and take a relaxing shower at the end of a long day.

A young parent could have a microwave installed in place of a base drawer or cabinet, flanking the oven. This would allow them to teach their children how to cook meals more independently. It would also make it possible for the parent to stay in their home, as they get older, and are in a wheelchair or if they find reaching upward difficult.

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What is wonderful is that the same features that assist younger homeowners in thriving in their homes will allow them to do the same when they are older. It’s all about maximizing comfort, convenience and, as a result, happiness

“Aging in place isn’t about special add-on features that will only help you once you’ve fallen and incurred a disability,” says Rodney Harrell, Ph.D., director of Livable Communities at AARP’s Public Policy Institute. “It’s about making functional home improvements that make spaces more useful and more usable for anyone, anytime.” (“Aging in Place Home Design: Features for “Thriving in Place” – Design Tech Homes” 2017)

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“Aging in Place Home Design: Features for “Thriving in Place” – Design Tech Homes.” Aging in Place Home Design & Build for Thriving in Place, Design Tech Homes, 2017, www.dth.com/our-learning-center/homeowner-tips/aging-in-place-home-design-features-for-thriving-in-place.

“Aging in Place Report 2016 | HomeAdvisor.” Home Improvement Tips & Advice from HomeAdvisor, HomeAdvisor, Inc., 30 Aug. 2017, www.homeadvisor.com/r/2016-aging-in-place-report/.