Many seniors long to remain independent as they age, but feel they don’t have the skills to do so. The need for programs to help the elderly make lifestyle changes to prevent disease and depression is becoming increasingly important, especially as more and more baby boomers enter retirement age. A new study suggests that intervention programs, which include occupational therapy, may improve quality of life during the “golden years.”
The study examined roughly 460 participants between the ages of 60 and 95. Half of the group underwent lifestyle modification training and the other half served as a control group. Occupational therapists taught seniors about energy conservation, physical and mental exercises and home safety. They also provided guidance about use of public transportation to encourage them to get out of the house to experience the world. The therapists encouraged small lifestyle changes that would incorporate more social activity that would give them with an increased sense of well-being and purpose.
Although the two groups started out with similar challenges, after six months of training, the intervention group showed significant improvements in mental health and reported more life fulfillment and a sense of well-being. Encouraging the addition of more social activities helped seniors become more engaged and active. They also reported improvements in physical health.
The cost of treating illness and depression in the elderly is very high. This study points to the importance of spending more money toward training seniors to make lifestyle adjustments that will empower them socially and physically now rather than later. These lifestyle programs may help prevent illness, disability and depression as opposed to treating problems after they’ve reared their ugly head.