Aging-in-Place: The Importance of Activities of Daily Living

ADL's imageAging-in-place is a term used to describe a person’s ability to remain living at “home” as one ages for as long, and as independently, as possible. Many seniors wish to remain living in the house they have occupied for decades, while others have already downsized or have moved into a supportive retirement community. Wherever a person calls “home” is typically where they wish to continue living as they get older, even as their health status starts to change.

When thinking about aging-in-place, it is important to consider the person’s ability to manage their Activities of Daily Living or ADLs. ADLs are the tasks and routines that are performed on a daily basis in order to take care of one’s self and live independently. Being able to successfully manage routine tasks, or ADLs, is a key element that supports the plan to age-in-place. The term ADLs is very broad and encompasses many different tasks which can be divided into two separate categories – Basic Activities of Daily Living and Instrumental Activities of Daily Living.

Basic Activities of Daily Living (ADLs)
ADLs are activities that relate to personal care and functional mobility. They include the following:

  • Dressing
  • Bathing or Showering
  • Personal Hygiene or Grooming
  • Toileting
  • Eating
  • Functional Mobility – moving from one place to another (e.g. walking, using a wheelchair, getting in/out of bed or chair, getting on/off the toilet, going up/down stairs)

Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs)
IADLs are activities that relate to household or community-based tasks, which include:

  • Shopping
  • Cooking
  • Cleaning
  • Laundry
  • Telephone/Communication
  • Household Maintenance
  • Medication Management
  • Money Management
  • Driving/Transportation

As can be seen, the list of tasks that we manage on a daily basis is quite extensive. To achieve the goal of aging-in-place, it is necessary to plan for the future and be prepared in order to respond to the changes that may occur with aging. The above list of ADLs will serve as a useful reference to help identify important areas that are a priority for future planning. An Occupational Therapist (OT) can also assist with the planning process. An OT is a health care professional who is skilled at assessing ADL performance and can make recommendations to maximize independence, and help overcome any areas of difficulty. Recommendations may relate to home safety or accessibility, the use of assistive devices, suggesting alternate methods of task completion, or linking to community support services and programs.

There is a definite link between the ability to manage routine activities of daily living and successful aging in place. Thoughtful and advance planning will enhance control, independence, and ultimately, quality of life at “home”.

Anita Salituri is an Occupational Therapist and founded Attune Aging Strategies and Solutions with her husband and Physiotherapist, Jim Salituri. They work together to create exercise programs for seniors and deliver educational workshops to professional and family caregivers. Attune is focused on enhancing the care and quality of life of older adults as they strive to remain living at home for as long as possible.

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